Research Task Force Updates, Nov. 30-Dec. 4

News for Researchers

Posted November 30, 2020 by Dan Moser

During the fall semester, the Research Task Force will continue sending updates about campus operations that affect research and creative activities during the pandemic. This message addresses topics for the week of Nov. 23-27.Congratulations on wrapping up a successful fall semester! Your commitment to campus health and safety made it possible for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to continue making an impact through its research and creative activities. Please continue being vigilant throughout the fall and winter mini sessions and the holiday season.

New this week
New directed health measures in effect

As of Friday, Nov. 27, the City of Lincoln/Lancaster County COVID-19 risk dial remained at the red level for the fourth consecutive week, indicating there is severe and uncontrollable community spread.  A new directed health measure for Lincoln is in effect through at least Dec. 18. Among other restrictions, the latest DHM limits indoor gatherings to 10 or fewer people. Although there are exceptions for office environments and educational environments, faculty, staff and students are urged to avoid nonessential group gatherings and follow all campuscity/county and state safety measures.

Please communicate with your lab stuff and students just how critical it is to follow public health guidelines and safety protocols to protect the campus and broader community. Testing is not a substitute for prevention habits, such as physical distancing, wearing a face covering and washing hands frequently. Employees are encouraged to work from home to decrease density in campus buildings.

Expanded testing continues through Dec. 6

Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19 before end-of-semester travel. UNL’s testing sites are offering additional appointments through Dec. 6, which are available on a first come, first-served basis. Registration is required.

The University Health Center also offers testing Monday through Saturday based on a telehealth consultation. Insurance coverage is required to use Health Center services. To request an appointment, call 402-472-5000.

Review your reopening plans

The reopening plan and checklist is required through December. Investigators who have already implemented their plans are encouraged review them again to ensure they meet local and state directed health measures. Investigators can modify existing reopening plans by clicking on the link embedded within the original approval e-mail. Anyone who has not yet submitted a reopening plan should become familiar with the reopening guidelines before submitting a plan for approval.

Preparing facilities for reduced activity
Changes to the academic calendar may result in reduced activity in research laboratories from late November through mid-January. Personnel are urged to cycle water through the plumbing fixtures in their laboratories and research spaces at least weekly to prevent bacterial buildup in the pipes.

Conserving energy during periods of reduced activity
Most academic buildings have automated infrared occupancy sensors for energy conservation. When the sensors do not detect anyone’s presence, a signal is triggered to turn off lights and slightly curtail ventilation. In research labs, where experiments often continue after personnel have left the area, the infrared occupancy sensors do not automatically shift into energy-conservation mode.

Lab personnel should be aware that each research space has a manual occupancy switch. Facilities Maintenance and Operations advises the last person to leave the area to activate the manual switch. Be certain that no active research activity requiring fume hoods is occurring. To resume normal operation, the switch must be triggered again.

Campus data posted on COVID-19 dashboard
The campus COVID-19 dashboard contains up-to-date information on daily positive cases and total number of tests; results from the past 14 days, as well as total tests given during that time period; and the current positivity rate and how it compares to the previous week. Cumulative data also is available. Information is provided by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department and includes results from Test Nebraska, University Health Center and other testing sources.

Flu shots for employees available at UHC
UNL employees and students are encouraged to get their annual flu shot. Although the vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, it reduces the likelihood of getting another potentially serious illness. The Health Center offers flu shots for university employees during regular business hours. Schedule an appointment in advance by calling 402-472-5000. The cost of a flu shot may be submitted through insurance, and employees who have completed the Health Risk Assessment may have no out-of-pocket costs. Read more in Nebraska Today.

Guidelines for positive case reporting, contact tracing
Faculty, staff and students should be familiar with university procedures on positive case reporting and contact tracing. Anyone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 should promptly notify the UNL Public Health Advocacy Team at or via text message at 402-266-6865. They also should promptly notify their direct supervisor and/or instructors. Supervisors may contact the Public Health Advocacy Team about a positive case but should NOT notify anyone else. Contact tracing is conducted by LLCHD with support from the UNL Public Health Advocacy Team. The two work together to notify contacts who may have been exposed.

Resources for leaders, supervisors
Guides are available for unit leaders and supervisors, including a screening guide; a response guide for having conversations with faculty, staff and students who notify them about COVID-19 symptoms, exposure and/or a confirmed case; and a supervisor FAQ guide that answers important questions about how to appropriately communicate with employees about COVID-19.

Understanding quarantine vs. isolation
The Centers for Disease Control has a helpful video that explains the difference between quarantine and isolation, and when each approach is appropriate.

This communication is distributed to principal investigators with approved research and creative activity re-opening plans as well as the associate deans for research. Please share this guidance with members of your research team as appropriate.

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