FAQ / Contact Us

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve responded to your questions via email at covid19@unl.edu, and will continue to do so. For your convenience, answers to frequently asked questions are listed below.

Health and Safety on Campus

Is COVID-19 testing available on campus? Are you providing tests to all students? To create the safest possible environment at Nebraska, we're offering minimally invasive, voluntary saliva-based testing for COVID-19. Learn more about testing.
How does distancing work for residence hall rooms? One or two students are assigned per bedroom. Roommates are encouraged to discuss their risk tolerance and create an isolation plan in relation to COVID-19. This includes vaccination status, visitors, and use of shared items/spaces.
My roommate may have COVID-19 but has not been tested. What should I do? If your roommate is symptomatic, you should encourage them to wear a mask at all times, get tested or see a medical provider, and isolate. You should wear a mask at all times around your roommate and closely monitor yourself for symptoms. If your roommate tests positive, they must continue to isolate. You have now been exposed and should follow the information found on the Exposure Guidance page in the What To Do If I Was Exposed? page.
My roommate tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do? It’s likely you have been exposed to COVID-19. Go to the Exposure Guidance page and follow the guidance in the What To Do If I Was Exposed? section.
A person I came into contact with has tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do?

Go to the Exposure Guidance page and follow the guidance in the Have I Been Exposed to COVID-19? section. If you determine you have been exposed, follow the guidance in the What To Do If I Was Exposed? section.

Are face coverings required?  Learn more about UNL's face covering policy.

About the Saliva Testing Program

Who pays for my saliva testing? All saliva testing is free for students, faculty and staff.
What type of test can I expect? The university is offering saliva-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19. The saliva samples are collected at testing locations across the university’s campuses. Download a Fact Sheet for Patients about the saliva-based testing.
How accurate are these tests? Across the clinical evaluation studies cited in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the SalivaDirect™ assay, there was over 94% agreement in positive results between the saliva test and nasopharyngeal swab-based PCR testing. There was over 90% agreement in negative results.
Should I take my scheduled saliva test if I have COVID-19 symptoms? If you are symptomatic, please seek a UNL saliva test right away. If you test positive, you should isolate according to your plan.
Where is the lab? Processing and analysis of all saliva samples is conducted at the Veterinary Diagnostic Center on East Campus.
Where do I go for testing? Testing is offered at locations on City and East campuses.
Do I have to do anything to prepare for the test?

Bring your N card to the testing location.

Because it is a saliva test, on the day of your test, drink plenty of water. Thirty minutes prior to your test, avoid food, chewing gum, lozenges/cough drops, lollipops/suckers, tobacco products, lipstick or color lip products, mouth wash and drinks other than water. Watch this COVID-19 Saliva Testing video to learn how to prepare for and provide the best sample during your testing appointment.

Test Results

How will I receive results? Most individuals will receive their test results in the UNL COVID-19 Portal by the end of the day following the day of their test. Rare exceptions might include when a test sample needs to be re-run by the lab. If you haven’t received your results within the day that follows the day you test, please contact support@nebraska.edu.
I just received a COVID-19 vaccination. Will it impact my saliva test results? The vaccine will not affect test results. Information regarding the vaccine and its impact on testing is available on the Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines page on the CDC’s website.
My saliva test is positive—now what? If your saliva test result is positive, you should isolate according to your isolation plan.
How do you plan to keep my results private? All data systems involved in the analysis and reporting of your test results are designed with the highest standards of encryption and security protocols for maintaining data classified with this level of sensitivity. Your results are encrypted and securely fed to your portal accessible only with your UNL credentials. Other than feeding your secure portal, results are only shared with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD). All COVID-19 test results from all entities that conduct testing are required to be shared with DHHS and LLCHD during the COVID-19 pandemic. This sharing with DHHS also affords UNL participation in the DHHS SARS-CoV-2 variant detection program conducted through the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory.
How long will saliva sample materials be kept?

Saliva samples determined to be positive for SARS-CoV-2 by the UNL Saliva Testing program will be shared with the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory for possible SARS-CoV-2 variant testing. When the amount of virus present in a sample is sufficient for variant testing, such testing will be conducted.

Given that multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been identified globally and in the United States, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has initiated a program for detection of and surveillance for these variants in Nebraska. As part of this program, DHHS requested that UNL provide saliva samples positive for SARS-CoV-2 to the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory for whole virus genome sequencing, the only laboratory method available to identify if any variants are present in the SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome from a positive sample. Participation in this program will readily allow for detection of any variant virus sequences, and in turn, thorough case investigations and contact tracing efforts to further mitigate any spread of COVID-19. Individuals whose samples are positive for a variant may be notified by their local county health department, in most cases Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD).

All saliva samples determined to be negative for SARS-CoV-2 by the UNL Saliva Testing program have been and will continue to be disposed of after three days, following established biosafety practices.

Why doesn’t HIPAA apply to this testing and the use of the results?

HIPAA only applies to certain entities, known as covered entities. Covered entities include health plans, health care clearinghouses and health care providers that engage in certain electronic transactions. Organizations such as schools and universities have some components of their organization covered by HIPAA and other components that are not. It is very common that not all components of universities that handle identifiable information are covered by HIPAA. This testing is being conducted in a component of the University that does not qualify as a covered entity under HIPAA.

A more detailed explanation is offered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (a hybrid entity, such as a university, has the option to exclude a research laboratory, that functions as a health care provider but does not engage in electronic transactions).

What rules or laws protect my information? The university is bound by certain privacy rules that protect data regarding students, faculty and staff. Student information is subject to FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) regulations. Faculty and staff data is treated as personnel information, which is covered under NU Board of Regents Policy 6.7. All data systems involved in the analysis and reporting of your test results, including the mobile application, are designed with the highest standards of encryption and security protocols for maintaining data classified with this level of sensitivity.

Health and Safety in Classes I Teach

What should I do if a student in my class reports testing positive for COVID-19? If social distancing and facial covering protocols are followed during class sessions, exposure for others would be limited. Unless notified otherwise or if symptoms arise, instruction should continue.
The instructor who teaches in the same room has tested positive for COVID-19. Should I get tested as I use the same lectern? Health officials consider this a low-risk scenario. However, individuals should self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate and seek medical consultation if you become symptomatic.
If I suspect I have COVID-19 and await results from a test, can I still teach my class in-person and who should I tell? If you suspect exposure and are awaiting test results, you should exercise appropriate caution. If you test positive, you should follow isolation guidelines.
I’ve been notified that a student will be in self-quarantine. Can I inform other students in the class about the quarantine? No, instructors should never disclose a student’s protected health information to any third party unless the student authorizes it in writing or permits the disclosure. Individuals in quarantine may or may not develop COVID-19.
Can I require a student to provide documentation for why they cannot attend in-person instruction? To protect students’ health information, instructors cannot require that students provide written medical excuses. Students are encouraged to notify instructors immediately if an absence is required due to illness or injury. Students should also follow related directions provided in class syllabi.

Health and Safety in University Facilities

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through the HVAC? The following is a statement provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  • The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about six feet).

Facilities has set HVAC controls in all buildings to balance occupant comfort and adequate introduction of fresh air in accordance with ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) standards. Facilities will continue to monitor recommendations from CDC, ASHRAE and other expert agencies and adjust the controls accordingly. Facilities will continue with ongoing, established air handling maintenance (e.g., cleaning, inspection, filter changes, etc.).

What is the air exchange rate of my building? Spaces within UNL facilities may have different air exchange rates, which vary according to room conditions and outdoor weather. All central HVAC systems provide at least twice the minimum fresh air ventilation required by the ASHRAE 62.1 Standard.
Is my air filtered? Yes. UNL Facilities has upgraded all central HVAC systems to use ASHRAE-recommended MERV13 air filters or better.
Are the HVAC systems working properly? HVAC systems are monitored at all times for proper operation. Facility Operations staff are alerted to any critical malfunctions.
Are the HVAC systems serviced regularly? All UNL facilities equipment is serviced and inspected on a regular basis.
Should I open my windows (if they do open)? Please do not open windows for ventilation. Buildings on UNL campus are slightly pressurized, meaning we bring in more fresh air from outside than is exhausted. This ensures that any air leakage (doors, windows, etc.) is outward and that all outdoor air coming into the building passes through air filters and is heated or cooled. This results in improved indoor air quality, reduces energy use, increases comfort, keeps the building cleaner and protects building materials from deterioration. It also ensures that doors latch properly. Due to building pressurization, opening windows will not reliably increase ventilation beyond that already provided by the central system. The University of Nebraska is also located in a geographical region where open windows may draw in hot, humid air or very cold, dry air from outside. Our building HVAC equipment may be unable to maintain optimal indoor temperature and humidity within a comfortable range if windows are left open. Our centralized HVAC systems automatically take advantage of ideal outdoor air conditions and maximize the outdoor air ventilation when possible.
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Please feel free to contact us with any other questions.

covid19@unl.edu