Residence halls across the University of Nebraska system will be converted to quarantine spaces for those affected by COVID-19, effective immediately.
Beginning Thursday, April 2, residence halls at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska Omaha, University of Nebraska at Kearney and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture will be licensed to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to help efforts in containing the impact of the coronavirus, according to the licensing agreement.
As students are encouraged to return to their permanent place of residence, vacancies at residence halls allow the partnership between the university and the state.
“These are uncertain times, but the university stands ready to help Nebraska be as prepared as possible to meet the challenges ahead,” NU President Ted Carter said.
According to Leslie Reed, director of public affairs for UNL, the residence halls are expected to house people who need to quarantine or those who have tested positive for the virus with mild symptoms and need to self-isolate but who are unable to do so at their primary place of residence.
Reed said the approximately 765 students that remain on campus have moved to a centralized location in apartment-style and suite-style residence halls, which she said allows UNL to better support those students. About 5,400 students lived on campus before being encouraged to return home.
Additional space in the residence halls, based on need and capacity, may also be used for public need.
A specific area of the residence halls may be designated for COVID-19 positive individuals. Occupants who demonstrate COVID-19 symptoms or test positive will be evaluated and transferred to the location if they pose a risk to further transmission, according to the license agreement. The university will not be responsible for supervising or providing medical care.
Reed said the Nebraska DHHS has not asked UNL for space yet, but UNL is preparing for the potential need in the future.
“From the outset of this pandemic, we have been driven by the need to keep our UNL community safe and also to help our broader community of Lincoln and the state of Nebraska,” UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green said. “We are all in this together. If there’s a way UNL can help, we will.”
Individual campuses will provide three “grab-and-go” meals each day to occupants of the residence halls, or nonoccupants like staffers with prior approval, according to the license agreement.
Janitorial services will also be provided by campuses that follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rooms are to be cleaned at least daily and as needed. Upon vacancy, rooms will be cleaned to meet or exceed standards from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the CDC. Linen services will be provided by the state.
The Nebraska DHHS will also pay the university a licensing fee for occupied rooms of $100 per room per day, according to the license, which includes parking areas and the cost of issuing security keys or additional devices.
With students leaving, Reed said the vacancies allow UNL to help students who may need to quarantine or to support the needs of the state and the city of Lincoln. Neihardt Residential Hall was converted to a quarantine facility earlier this year.
The license between the university and the state will continue until Aug. 1 unless terminated sooner or extended through agreement from both parties. Carter thanked Ricketts for initiating and helping with the conversation to respond to COVID-19.
“The University of Nebraska is proud to be a partner in serving our communities in a time of need,” Carter said. “We have resources and expertise across our campuses that can be brought to bear in the state's response to COVID-19, and today's news is one more example.”