Chancellor Ronnie Green announced Wednesday morning instances that face coverings may be required for specific classes or academic activities five days ahead of the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

In an email to faculty, staff and students, Green said face masks may be required to mitigate COVID-19 infections in classes or academic activities that require working in close proximity for extended periods of time.

This includes lab courses in engineering and physical, life and human sciences; performance courses like dance, music and theater; art and design studies for architecture, engineering and fine and performing arts and experiential learning opportunities under the same conditions.

Instructors or students may also ask that face coverings be required in their classes if these individuals have immediate family members unable to be vaccinated, such as children younger than 12. Students may talk with their instructors to request this.

Specific face covering requirements will be noted in course syllabi, which Green said ensure “we can safely meet our goal of providing a robust, in-person educational experience.”

Deb Fiddelke, UNL’s chief communication and marketing officer, said this approach was specifically designed for at-risk situations where wearing a face covering is required and necessary. Most of the time, UNL has initiated policies at the same rate as the city and county, though Lancaster County is only recommending masks at this time due to the delta variant.

“We’re certainly taking these steps that are stronger right now than what are being reflected in the broader community, but we believe it’s important for these specific instances,” Fiddelke said.

Green also reminded individuals that re-entry testing should be completed this week, regardless of vaccination status. This test is required for building access and may be scheduled via the Safer Community app.

UNL community members who submit their vaccine information through UNL’s Voluntary Vaccine Registry will not have to continue weekly testing, while those who do not will need to complete testing until the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department advises any changes.

Some exemptions to testing are available, such as a documented COVID-19 test in the past 90 days or other medical reasons. 

“This re-entry testing will provide us with incredibly valuable information on the rate of COVID infections on our campus, and the ability to make data-driven decisions to keep our campus safe this Fall,” Green said in the email.

Fiddelke said the re-entry data is expected to be analyzed next week to see how it determines the campus’s path forward.

“As we’ve said since the very beginning, we will continue to flex as necessary to keep people safe as this thing continues to unfold,” she said.

Walk-up vaccination clinics will continue to be offered at the Bob Devaney Sports Center through Thursday, Aug. 19, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in conjunction with on-campus move-in. This is welcome to any UNL community member.

Two walk-up clinics will also be offered outside the Nebraska Union and Nebraska East Union next week Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days. The University Health Center is also offering vaccinations by appointment.

Fiddelke said there will be follow up opportunities for those who receive the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations at these clinics.

Though COVID-19 vaccinations are not required to return to campus, UNL will “likely” release data on those who signed up in the voluntary registry next week though it will probably be done after the first day of classes on Monday, according to Fiddelke.

Green said he “strongly encourages” those who are not fully vaccinated to do so.

As he’s walked on campus this week, Green said he’s seen it “coming to life” as students return and welcome activities are planned.

“Thank you for your continued respect for one another as we continue to navigate the impacts of this global pandemic, while preserving our in-person educational experience for our students from across Nebraska, the United States and the world,” he said.