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Enhanced campus health and safety measures begin Nov. 16

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Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, chancellor of UNMC and the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Ted Cieslak, MD, interim executive director of the UNMC Office of Health Security, sent the following message to all members of the UNMC community on Nov. 11.

In recent weeks, we have reiterated that your unwavering commitment to each other's health, safety and well-being during the fall 2020 semester has allowed us to maintain campus operations and our educational mission all while seeing very few campus-acquired COVID-19 cases. For this, we thank you and encourage you to keep this passion and focus in the coming days, weeks and perhaps months as we continue to fight this pandemic.

It is also true, as we have said since the beginning of our response to the pandemic in March, our campus would continue to adjust and adapt our academic programs, working and learning plans based on the spread of the virus not just on campus, but in our wider communities, in order to promote your health and safety. As an academic medical center and a health care leader in the state of Nebraska, UNMC will continue to model the best practices of COVID-19 safety efforts.

We have carefully been guided by our Pandemic Mitigation and Response Guide, which has developed a reliable set of considerations to thoughtfully guide our approach since the early days of the pandemic. This guide carefully balances campus-specific and community considerations of disease transmission, health care resources and our potential campus mitigation and response policy.

It is with this in mind that, due to the spread of the virus in Omaha, Douglas County, and across the state of Nebraska, new and enhanced health and safety measures will be implemented on our campus effective Monday, Nov. 16.

Classes

  • All didactic education will be further dedensified and with a progressive move to remote learning. Experiential learning (labs, etc.) will transition to remote learning whenever possible. If not possible, labs should be limited to no more than 10 total participants with face coverings (e.g., eight students, two faculty), adequately spaced to provide for physical distancing.
  • Experiential learning labs will be rearranged to allow all basic information to be conveyed as soon as possible in order to shorten the semester for experiential learning activities.
  • All labs must create accommodations for students who must miss a lab due to individual health concerns or quarantine/isolation.
  • All educational faculty, staff and students must use the 1-Check UNMC app daily.
  • Clinical rotations will not be impacted at this time and will only be adjusted by individual programs if necessary.

Research

  • All research labs with more than 10 people at any given time should dedensify.
  • Research staff should comply with all work-from-home policies.
  • All research faculty, staff and students must use the 1-Check UNMC app daily
  • Human subject research should either be deferred or appropriately socially distanced.
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Campus events

  • All events with more than 10 people should discontinue. Academic courses are not included.
  • Gatherings not directly related to the UNMC mission will be prohibited.

Administration

  • Administrative and department offices should examine where further reduced occupancy is possible while maintaining a public presence. Consider a front desk attendant being available to welcome guests, record questions, verify the 1-Check app status and pass along to relevant teammates. No office should have more than 10 staff present.
  • Staff will continue to require designation by a supervisor for administrative personnel to work on campus. (Supervisors will review these designations with deans or vice chancellors.)
  • Since one of the biggest risks for transmission is when masks are off for food and beverage consumption, eating on campus will be minimized when possible. All will be asked to consider eating alone, and social distancing (at least six feet apart or more) should be observed when eating with others both on and off campus.
  • Voluntary on-campus COVID-19 screening and testing will be offered to faculty, staff and students who require it (announcement about how to access this will be made shortly).
  • Students will be asked not to come to campus solely for the purpose of studying.
  • Campus leaders will review and reinforce the Student and Faculty COVID-19 Commitment.
  • Campus visitors and guests will be discouraged. An exemption and approval process will be developed for visitors to campus.
  • Carpooling and public transportation use are discouraged.

Resources for how to keep teaching, keep working, and keep learning can be accessed through the COVID-19 Resources website.

Successfully implementing these measures will require your continued cooperation and commitment to the wellbeing of our community. While we must act with a sense of urgency, I ask that you show each other patience and kindness as we enter this new phase of our COVID-19 response together. This is not the first time our university has adjusted our plans in order to promote the health of our students, faculty and staff, and it will not be the last. We will continue to closely monitor the spread of the virus and keep you up to date as our mitigation efforts adapt and evolve.

We also ask that you continue to do the little things that make a big difference, both on campus and in the community, such as mask wearing, physical distancing, hand washing and daily use of the 1-Check UNMC mobile app.

Please make sure to take care of yourselves as well. It is common to experience feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation in times like these, and we encourage all members of the UNMC community to get the help they need. Students can find the resources that promote their mental and emotional wellbeing through the UNMC Counseling & Student Development Center, house officers can call the House Officer Assistance Program at 402-689-1033, and faculty and staff can find the same resources through the https://www.unmc.edu/wellness/resources/counseling-resources.html UNMC Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

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