October 19, 2020
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 Oct. 19-23.
New this week
Lincoln/Lancaster County remains at high risk for community spread
As of Friday, Oct. 16, the City of Lincoln/Lancaster County COVID-19 risk dial measured at the “elevated orange” level for the second consecutive week, meaning there is high risk of community spread. Both positivity rates and cases requiring hospitalization are increasing throughout Nebraska. An adjusted statewide directed health measure will be in effect Oct. 21-Nov. 30 to reduce the size of gatherings and shore up hospital capacity.
Prevention remains the best strategy to preventing the virus’ spread. 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.
Flexibility on tracking ‘idle time’ has expired
Sept. 30 was the expiration date for OMB M-20-26, which extended federal funding agencies’ ability to allow grant and contract recipients to continue charging employee salaries and benefits to active federal and non-federal research – even if those individuals could not work remotely or on campus during the pandemic. To date, OMB M-20-26 has not been extended, and additional flexibility is not anticipated at this time. Research teams that continue to charge employees’ time to extramural research projects (when they cannot work remotely on campus) will need to charge that time to other funding sources. Read the Office of Sponsored Programs’ FAQ document for more information.
State updates guidelines for hosting out-of-state visitors
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services recently updated its guidelines on out-of-state visitors. Anyone visiting campus from locations outside Nebraska must practice strict social distancing and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. Individuals should immediate self-isolate if they develop symptoms. Read more on the DHHS website.
Although UNL does not prohibit visitors, campus hosts are responsible for making sure guests are aware of, and follow, all state, local and campus policies and guidelines. Researchers also must inform their supervisor of any planned visits to ensure they approve of hosting visitors.
International travel for students is prohibited in spring 2021
University-sponsored international travel for students, including Education Abroad programs, will be prohibited through the spring semester. A decision on international travel for faculty and staff in spring 2021 is forthcoming.
UNL refines COVID-19 testing resources
COVID-19 testing resources have evolved and expanded during the fall semester. Read the Oct. 16 Nebraska Today article about UNL’s testing and mitigation efforts. Bob Wilhelm, vice chancellor for research and economic development and co-chair of the Forward to Fall committee, is quoted.
Operating plans for research and creative spaces
Through October, 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.