Re-Entry Testing Required for Students, Faculty and Staff
To ensure the best possible start to Spring Semester 2022, UNL is requiring COVID-19 testing for all faculty, staff and students who have an on-campus presence. Faculty, staff and student employees who have returned to campus are asked to test between Jan. 9 and Jan. 13. All other students are asked to test between Jan. 14 and Jan. 21; students living in residence halls and Greek houses are asked to test between Jan. 14 and Jan. 17 to help prevent viral spread in these congregate living environments.
As daily testing capacity is limited, please make an appointment through the Safer Community app or the COVID-19 Testing Portal. Tests can be scheduled up to six days in advance.
Testing Updates for Spring Semester
To continue our success in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, after the reentry period, UNL will continue to conduct random mitigation testing. A random, weekly selection of all students, faculty and staff will be required to take a saliva-based COVID-19 test. On Thursdays, Huskers selected for the random testing will receive an email notifying them to schedule a test between Sunday and Wednesday of the following week at any open campus testing location. We will continue to use the Safer Community app to schedule your test and view your results. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can do these things from the COVID-19 testing online portal.
If selected, your Safer Community app will show the need for a new test in the “next steps” section, and those who have enabled push notifications on their app will receive a notice.
If you are selected for random testing, please note that these tests are required.
Students, faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can voluntarily submit their status at the Voluntary COVID-19 Vaccine Registry. To date, nearly 80% of our campus community has received the vaccine and reported it via the registry.
This random testing program will enable us to continue to isolate positive cases of COVID-19 and help us contain asymptomatic spread on our campus. Individuals who wish to test and are not selected for the randomized test can schedule a saliva test voluntarily.
If we see the development of concentrated cases on campus or increases in the Lincoln/Lancaster County community, we may return to a broader testing strategy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Random Mitigation Testing
What is the random mitigation testing program?The university has shifted to a random mitigation testing program for all students, faculty and staff. This strategy will randomly select members of the campus community to participate each week. It will provide an updated look at transmission and asymptomatic cases in our community.
Why is mitigation testing important?Mitigation testing is a key component of UNL’s overall strategy to safely offer in-person education this semester. It allows us to identify asymptomatic cases before they spread the virus to others.
How will I know I have been chosen for random mitigation testing?Individuals selected for required random mitigation testing will be notified via their university email on Thursdays as well as through the Safer Community app. Individuals will also receive a text alert.
How soon will I need to test if I’m chosen for random mitigation testing?Individuals selected for randomized mitigation testing will need to complete a saliva test between Sunday through Wednesday of the following week in which they are notified. Individuals who already have approved health exemptions from the saliva testing program are not required to test.
How does the selection process for random mitigation testing work?Random mitigation testing entails selecting a percentage of the population (in this case, all students, faculty, and staff) each week using computer software that randomly generates a list of individuals from an overall pool of eligible community populations sampled in proportion to their size.
Why do I have to test more than once in the random mitigation program when others haven’t been asked at all?Since the selection process is truly random, some individuals may be asked to test more than once while others may not be selected at all.
I’ve been selected for mitigation testing. Can I get tested elsewhere and notify UNL of my results?No. You must schedule and complete a test through UNL’s mitigation testing program to be compliant with university policy.
I’ve started having symptoms of COVID-19 since scheduling my mitigation test. Should I still get tested?If you are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, please schedule a UNL saliva test or a test through the University Health Center right away. Don’t wait for a later scheduled test. If you test positive on a University Health Center or other community test that is not part of the UNL saliva program, provide us documentation through the testing exemptions portal and we will exempt you from mitigation testing that week and for the next 90 days.
Can I still test if I’m not selected that week for the random mitigation program?Yes, any member of the campus community can choose to schedule a saliva test if they wish.
About the Saliva Testing Program
Can I get a testing exemption?
You can request an exemption for one or more of the following reasons:
- You can provide documentation of a positive COVID-19 test in the prior 90 days, and you have completed your 10 days of isolation. Submit an exemption so you won’t be included in the testing pool until the 90-day exemption expires, upon which you will be required to participate in the testing program.
- You can provide documentation of a health-care provider’s note that substantiates a medical reason for an exemption request.
What types of COVID-19 test results may be accepted to support an exemption from the saliva-based testing program?Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, like the UNL saliva tests, are preferred. Some locations in the community are only able to make antigen tests available. Both types of tests, PCR and antigen, are now accepted to substantiate test exemption requests. If you tested positive on one of these types of tests in the last 90 days, please continue to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. If you become symptomatic during the 90 days, consult a medical provider. Those who initially tested positive on antigen test and display COVID-19 symptoms again within the 90 days should seek a UNL saliva test and consult a medical provider for help interpreting the results.
If I’ve taken a COVID-19 test recently, do I still need to participate in the university’s saliva-based testing?Yes. Results from any test taken outside of UNL’s saliva-based testing program cannot be linked to the Safer Community app and cannot be used to meet re-entry and random mitigation testing requirements. If you have taken a COVID-19 test recently with a positive result, you can submit an exemption request for the 90-day category.
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 requiring 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.
Is there need for a follow-up nasal swab test to confirm the saliva test result?No, unlike current COVID-19 antigen tests, the accuracy of saliva-based PCR testing does not warrant follow-up nasal swab testing to confirm the result.
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 must isolate and, after recovery, you will be eligible to request a 90-day exemption from the saliva-based testing program.
Where is the lab?Processing and analysis of all saliva samples is conducted at the Veterinary Diagnostic Center on East Campus.
Mobile Application Information
How does the mobile app work?Information on use of the Safer Community app can be found on the Safer Community App page.
What if I don’t have a smartphone?If you don’t own a smartphone, you can use Safer Community for the web on a desktop or laptop device and obtain your results online.
How do you plan to keep my data secure?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. Your results will be encrypted and securely fed to your mobile application or your portal accessible only with your UNL credentials. See Safer Community Privacy Statement.
Test Scheduling and Collection Sites
When did testing begin?Testing locations for the majority of campus opened on Jan. 9, 2022, when the re-entry testing began. See a list of testing sites.
I scheduled a test and now I need to reschedule. What should I do?You can cancel and reschedule in either your Apple or Android app. Under Next Step in the app it shows scheduled tests and there is a cancel button you can select. Then go into schedule a test and select a new time. In the web system, you can cancel or reschedule in the e-mail confirmation.
Where do I go for testing?Testing is offered at multiple locations on City and East campuses.
Can I use any of the UNL testing locations or am I assigned to one?Each time you register for your test, you can sign up to use any of the UNL saliva-based testing locations. Choose whichever one is most convenient for your schedule
What are the hours for testing?Hours and specific locations are available within the Safer Community app.
Do I have to do anything to prepare for the test?
Once you have scheduled your appointment, plan to arrive at the testing site 5 minutes prior to your appointment. Have your mobile phone with the Safer Community App PLUS a photo id, such as N card, driver’s license or passport available. If you do not have a smartphone, you will need to arrive at your testing appointment with your ID and be prepared to provide your name and NU ID number.
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.
What do I need to bring with me to the testing site?You are required to bring your phone with the Safer Community app downloaded, as well as a photo identification card (NCard or government issued identification card, such as driver’s license or passport).
How long should I expect to wait in line and provide my sample?You should arrive promptly and anticipate around 5 minutes for on-site registration and to provide a sample. However, please allow at least 15 minutes to include any wait time.
Can I get tested during work hours?Yes. Employees should discuss arrangements for testing with a supervisor to minimize impacts on regular duties.
I work at night on campus. Will I have to come in on my own time to get tested?You may provide your saliva samples during your scheduled working hours.
What should I do if I become symptomatic?If you are symptomatic for COVID-19, schedule a UNL saliva test or a test through the University Health Center or your healthcare provider right away. Don’t wait for a later scheduled test.
How will I receive results?You will receive your results through your Safer Community App. In addition to scheduling your appointments, Safer Community supports notifications of your results. If you don't have a smartphone, you can view your results at COVID-19 Test Results.
How soon can I expect results?The university-led saliva testing program will release results generally within the day that follows the day you test.
I just received a COVID-19 vaccination. Will it impact my saliva test results?The vaccine will not affect test results or exempt you from being part of the mitigation testing. 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.
It’s been a full day and I still haven’t received my results.Most individuals will receive their test results in the Safer Community app 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
My saliva test is positive—now what?If your saliva test result is positive, you will be contacted by UNL’s Public Health Advocacy Team who will offer you support and resources to navigate school and work and also to conduct contact tracing for the UNL community. You will also be contacted by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. Please be sure to return phone messages/or emails from PHAT and LLCHD as quickly as possible. The Public Health Advocacy Team will keep confidential your identity and health information, sharing information only as needed with Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department to coordinate contact tracing and to notify your identified close contacts of exposure. The university will provide isolation housing at no additional cost to students who need it. Any student, regardless of whether they live in University Housing, should contact Residence Life at 402-472-1717 to arrange for isolation housing.
How will my results be used?Results will be used to trigger contact tracing conducted by the UNL Public Health Advocacy Team in coordination with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. Positive test results are shared with the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory for possible SARS-CoV-2 variant testing as part of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services SARS-CoV-2 variant detection program.
How do you plan to keep my results private?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. Your results will be encrypted and securely fed to your mobile application or your portal accessible only with your UNL credentials Other than feeding your mobile application or secure portal, results are only shared with the UNL Public Health Advocacy Team for the purposes of contact tracing in our UNL community, and 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. As of the week of March 29, 2021, this sharing with DHHS also affords UNL participation in the DHHS SARS-CoV-2 variant detection program conducted through the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory. See Safer Community Privacy Statement.
How long will saliva sample materials be kept?
As of the week of March 29, 2021, 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.
Who is Required to Participate?
Who is required to be tested?Unless otherwise noted, all UNL students who come physically to one of the Lincoln campuses in spring 2022, such as for in-person classes or work, are required to participate. This includes all residence halls and Greek chapter facilities, which are, for COVID-19 testing purposes, considered UNL-affiliate congregate living and on-campus residences by the university and Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. Faculty and staff who plan to come physically to any of the Lincoln campuses must also participate in the program.
What does required mean?Required means you — without an official exemption — must participate in the saliva testing program. Individuals who fail to participate may be subject to disciplinary measures.
What are the consequences if I don’t get tested?Participating in the saliva testing program is required and any student or employee who does not follow protocols may be subject to discipline through the Student Code of Conduct or Human Resources policies.
How can the university require me to be tested?
The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issued guidance in March, 2020 related to COVID-19 stating that institutions that follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and who work in close consultation with public health authorities, can test members of a campus community in order to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The CDC has acknowledged the unique nature of University settings that include frequent movement both among the campus community and the broader community and that a strategy of entry testing combined with regular serial testing might prevent or reduce COVID-19 transmission. See CDC guidance from October 21, 2020, Testing, Screening, and Outbreak Response for Institutions of Higher Education.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated in its most recent guidelines that COVID-19 testing by employers that is consistent with CDC recommendations meets the Americans with Disabilities Act business necessity standard for faculty and staff.
The University carefully evaluated its interest in maintaining a safe and healthy campus for all members of the campus community, balanced with the rights of students and employees. An unchecked spread of COVID-19 may expose members of the community to serious health risks and could cause substantial disruption to University operations. Thus, the University has a compelling interest in preventing or controlling community spread. Testing — early and often — is an essential element of any plan to control the spread of COVID-19. The University also considered the manner in which the tests are conducted. The saliva tests are significantly less invasive than other testing methods. Based on these factors, the University determined that required saliva testing was not only reasonable, but a necessary step to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our campus community.