It was one year ago this week that our university proactively implemented health and safety changes to our teaching, learning, and working operations in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our top priority remains the same today as it was then: promoting the health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff, as well as the Omaha community. This is especially true as Spring Break nears.
While it is true that national declines in positive cases and vaccine availability for UNO employees are good news, the CDC warned last week that the nation will lose these recent gains in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, as new variants of the virus emerge, if we do not remain vigilant.
Adherence to the following guidance ahead of Spring Break will play a crucial role in how the virus and various new strains spread – both on our campus and within the Omaha community:
Avoid the Three Cs
As you make your Spring Break plans, stay away from crowded places, close contact, and confined spaces. This is one of the most effective of ways to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Get Tested Before You Spend Time Near Others
COVID-19 can be transmitted asymptomatically, which means you can spread the virus to others even if you aren’t showing symptoms. Testing can help mitigate the spread. UNO students, faculty, and staff can schedule an appointment at UNO’s COVID-19 testing site located at the Scott Conference Center. Students, faculty, staff, and their families or household members can also receive a test at the Universal Swab Center located at 5710 S. 144th St.
Know What a Negative Test Means
It is important to note that a negative test is not a free pass to disregard public health protocols. A negative COVID-19 test is a snapshot in time and is not representative of the hours and days that follow. Individuals should continue to wear a face mask, social distance, limit crowds, self-screen with the 1-Check UNO app and wash their hands frequently.
Know What Vaccination Means
It is important to note that one or two vaccine shots is not a free pass to disregard public health protocols. Individuals should continue to wear a face mask, social distance, limit crowds, self-screen with the 1-Check UNO app and wash their hands frequently until we achieve “herd immunity status”. The CDC will be issuing further guidance in the very near future.
Stay Home if You Are Exhibiting COVID-19 Symptoms
If you have been in direct contact (within five feet for more than 15 minutes) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and/or are generally not feeling well, it is best to avoid travel and being in contact with others. Remember: If you have symptoms and get tested for COVID-19 it is crucial that you quarantine until you receive the results of your test
Understand Travel Risks
The CDC notes that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19 and recommends that you do not travel at this time.
During the Break
Self-Screen for COVID-19 Symptoms With the 1-Check UNO App
Whether or not you plan to travel during the break, daily use of the app supports the university’s effort to limit the spread of the virus. You can also encourage friends and family to use the 1-Check UNO COVID app for the web, Apple iOS or Android – a free tool created by the same UNO, UNMC, and Apple development team that created 1-Check UNO.
Follow Tried and True Health and Wellness Best Practices
Regardless of what your plans are, continue to wear a mask in public, use hand sanitizer, practice physical distancing, and wash your hands.
Before You Return to Campus
Get Tested Again
If you spent time near others during the break, please consider getting tested for COVID-19 before returning to in-person teaching, working, and learning. If you test positive for COVID-19 or show symptoms in the days leading up to the start of the semester, fill out a quick and easy-to-use BRT form, where you can report a positive case to the Office of Health Security (OHS) team.
Connect. Take Care. Get Help.
It is common for individuals to experience feeling of stress, anxiety, or isolation during this pandemic. Students can find the resources they need to promote their mental and emotional wellbeing through UNO Counseling and Psychological Resources (CAPS), while faculty and staff can find the same resources through UNO's Faculty and Staff Employee Assistance Program (FSEAP).
Remember Mask Requirements and Gathering Precautions
Mask requirements and limited gathering precautions remain in place. UNO continues to require masks, social distancing, and limited gatherings on campus, despite recent changes to the state's directed health measures.
Quarantine After International Travel
International travel for UNO business is prohibited through June 30 and personal international travel is strongly discouraged. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) requires that returning international travelers get tested three to five days after international travel and stay home to self-quarantine for seven to ten days after returning from international travel. Additional guidance is available on the Nebraska DHHS COVID-19 Traveler Recommendations page.
Register for Vaccine Notifications
The COVID-19 vaccination effort led by the Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) is underway. Currently, DCHD’s vaccination sign up is open to individuals age 65 and older. The DCHD updates its vaccine information page regularly. Individuals who live outside of Douglas County can register through the State of Nebraska’s COVID-19 Vaccination Registration Portal.
Employees: Watch for Vaccine Updates
Last week, UNO announced that the Douglas County Health Department began allocating a limited amount to COVID-19 vaccines to UNO employees, beginning with those that are identified as “essential for on-campus operations.” UNO employees – including full- and part-time faculty and staff, adjunct faculty, student workers, and graduate assistants – will soon receive an email to register for vaccine notification by completing a short survey.
If at any point leading up to, during, and after Spring Break, you have questions about your current situation, you can contact UNO OHS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to the health of not only fellow Mavericks, but to the health of our surrounding Omaha community.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.