Updates from the Research Task Force: Nov. 9-13

News for Researchers

Posted November 10, 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. 9-13.

New this week

Risk dial reaches red level

As of Friday, Nov. 6, the City of Lincoln/Lancaster County COVID-19 risk dial measured at the ‘red’ level, indicating there is severe and uncontrollable community spread. No changes in UNL operations are expected at this time. The Research Task Force meets this week and will communicate with campus if researchers and scholars must modify their reopening plans.

Prevention remains the best strategy to preventing the virus’ spread. While on campus, faculty, staff and students are reminded to follow a layered approach: wear a face mask, wash hands frequently and maintain 6 feet of distance. Employees are encouraged to continue working from home whenever feasible to decrease density in campus buildings.

Update on compensation for teaching assistants

Due to the adjusted 2020-21 academic calendar, graduate teaching assistants who have completed their fall duties as of Nov. 25 can work as research assistants during December and January. Departments should use the regular appointment dates for the fall term to ensure tuition and health benefits are applied to the student’s account. 

The research appointment for December and January cannot be combined with the regular fall teaching appointment. Any work outside the regular appointment for the fall and spring is considered additional work, and the student should be reasonably compensated. Departments should pay students a prorated amount based on their experience and regular term contract. Departments must provide an offer letter to the student. A one-time payment Personnel Action Form, or PAF, must be submitted to Payroll Services and accompanied by the signed offer letter. Departments are encouraged to submit the one-time payment PAF by Dec. 7 to ensure payment is included in the December paycheck. 

Please note that any effort under this circumstance charged on 24*, 25*, and 26* WBS accounts are allowable only if all the following additional steps are followed (over and above the guidance above).

  1. As these payments are supplemental pay, prior written approval from the funding agency for these expenses is required, to comply with 2 CFR § 200.430(h)1ii. Work with your Office of Sponsored Programs project specialist to secure such approval from the sponsor(s).
  2. Individual, separate PAFs must be submitted for both December and January. A single-time payment for both months will create incorrect PVS statements.
  3. The PAF must run through Payroll Services under a 51* G/L (and not a 56* G/L as non-taxable stipend), which will allow the charge(s) to be picked up by Project Verification Statement reporting.

For questions, contact David Doty, director of sponsored programs.


Operating plans for research and creative spaces
Through November, investigators should continue following the reopening guidelines and complete the reopening plan and checklist if they have not already done so. Investigators can modify existing reopening plans by clicking on the link embedded within the original approval e-mail.

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.

On-campus testing resources

The university, in partnership with Test Nebraska, offers a free COVID-19 testing site for faculty, staff and students. The test site is located on the ground floor of the 17th and R streets parking garage. The site has increased the number of tests available and is offering weekend appointments. Same-day appointments are available weekdays from 3-6 p.m. and on Sundays from 1-4 p.m. Visit the COVID-19 on-campus testing webpage for details about using this resource. 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.

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 covid19@unl.edu 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 vsisolation

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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