Updates from the Research Task Force: Oct. 26-30

News for Researchers

Posted October 26, 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 Oct. 26-30.

New this week

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 University 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.

Risk dial remains at ‘elevated orange’

As of Friday, Oct. 23, the City of Lincoln/Lancaster County COVID-19 risk dial measured at the “elevated orange” level for the third consecutive week, meaning there is high risk of community spread. An adjusted statewide directed health measure is in effect through Nov. 30 to reduce the size of gatherings and shore up hospital capacity. Lincoln residents are reminded to follow the three C’s: avoid crowded places, close contact and confined spaces.

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.


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.

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.

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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