Breaking News Sig 2020

Chancellor Ronnie Green announced Wednesday new COVID-19 safety measures for the upcoming spring semester, including changes to the Safer Community app and COVID-19 testing protocols.

Beginning the week of Jan. 16, the first week of the spring semester, the university will shift to weekly random mitigation testing. Voluntary testing will continue to be offered.

This weekly testing will include all students, faculty and staff, regardless of vaccination status or whether individuals have registered in the university’s voluntary COVID-19 vaccine registry.

Leslie Reed, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s public affairs director, said university officials remain in close contact with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department and at this time feel UNL should move to random testing of everyone in the spring.

“It would give us a broader look at what’s happening in our community as far as spread of COVID and be able to better track what’s actually happening among the full community,” Reed said.

If selected for random testing in a given week, individuals are required to complete the test by the end of that same week. 

At the beginning of November, the university shifted to randomly testing only unvaccinated individuals, so the spring protocols expand testing to the entire UNL community. 

The Safer Community app will not be used for access to campus buildings for the spring semester, but it will continue to be used for scheduling COVID-19 tests and for receiving results.

“We feel the vast majority of our student body and our community of faculty and staff are adhering to our protocols and we feel like it’s really no longer necessary to have them show the Safer Community app when they enter buildings,” Reed said.

This will also eliminate the need for wellness attendants, according to a text from Reed.

Reed said they are expecting the UNL community to cooperate testing because the majority of people have shown good cooperation with adhering to COVID-19 policies so far. If individuals are not willing to cooperate, there are existing disciplinary procedures in place for students, faculty and staff with either the Student Code of Conduct or employee conduct provisions.

On-campus clinics will be offered next week for anyone who wants any of the COVID-19 vaccine doses or the booster. Two drop-in clinics — both on Wednesday, Dec. 8 — will be offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Nebraska Union’s Regency Suite and 2:30-3:30 p.m. in the Nebraska East Union’s Prairie Suite.

Those receiving a second dose or booster must bring their vaccine card with them.

Green also addressed the newly discovered COVID-19 variant, Omicron, saying that while it’s been determined to be a variant of concern, little is known about its transmissibility or affect on immunity.

“The rise of this variant is an example of our need to be able to determine any spread of COVID-19 among all individuals on our campus, quickly isolate positive cases and determine if additional testing is necessary to limit concentrated spread,” Green said in his announcement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance saying all individuals eligible for a booster vaccine — two months after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or six months after the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for individuals 18 and older — should get one.

“Vaccination remains the very best protection against COVID-19, particularly in preventing severe illness or death,” Green said. “The vast majority of our students, faculty and staff have provided their vaccine information into our voluntary registry.”

Registering for the second dose of Pfizer or for a booster of an individual’s choice can be done through the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. Those seeking a first vaccine dose can register here

Green said he has been “exceedingly proud” of the UNL community’s adaptation to the pandemic and the university will continue its close partnership with the health department.

Should conditions change, policies will be adjusted as needed, according to Green.

“Always remember that we are all in this together,” Green said. “Please continue to treat each other with grace and goodwill.” 

This article was updated at 11:15 a.m. to include additional information from a university spokesperson.