Spring Testing Updates
Due to our university community's success in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, we have transitioned to random mitigation testing as of Thursday, Feb. 18. For building access, we will continue to use the Safer Community app. If you don't have a smartphone, you can schedule your test, view your results and print building access passes from the COVID-19 testing online portal.
Each week, a random selection of our students, faculty and staff will be required to take a saliva-based COVID test. On Thursdays, those selected for the random testing will receive an email asking them to schedule a test between Sunday and Wednesday of the following week at any open campus testing location. 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.
This new COVID testing protocol began with notifications on Thursday, February 18, for tests to be completed Sunday, February 20 through Wednesday, February 24, and will repeat each week thereafter. If you are selected for random testing, please note that these tests are required. If you are selected for random testing and do not have a completed negative saliva test result by end of day the Friday following the Sunday-Wednesday testing period, your Safer Community app will switch to an “Building Access Denied” status. A negative saliva test result will be required to reinstate your building access.
This random testing program will allow 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 choose to schedule a saliva test if they wish.
If we do see the development of concentrated cases on campus, there may be groups of students or faculty or staff who will need to do regular saliva testing for a determined period. Additionally, some students such as student teachers or childcare workers need to be tested regularly and can continue to utilize the saliva testing for those requirements.
Help Keep Our Community Safe
As the university moves into weekly random mitigation testing, the Safer Community app is still being used for building access and testing notifications and scheduling. f you don't have a smartphone, you can schedule your test, view your results and print building access passes from the COVID-19 testing online portal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Random Mitigation Testing
What is the random mitigation testing program?The university is preparing to launch a required, random mitigation testing program after the third round of reentry testing and if the campus’ COVID-19 positivity rate remains low. This testing strategy will randomly select members of the campus community to participate, providing an updated look at transmission and asymptomatic cases among students, instructors and staff. To maintain access to campus buildings individuals must participate in the random mitigation testing.
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. Individuals who do not complete their required test will lose building access granted on their Safer Community app. Individuals who already have approved 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 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 gain building access status through the Safer Community app. and to be compliant with university policy.
I’ve started having symptoms of Covid-19 since scheduling my mitigation test. Should I still get tested?No. If you are displaying symptoms of Covid-19, you can schedule a test through the Test Nebraska site at x or through the University Health Center. If you get a symptomatic test, provide us documentation through the exemption portal and we will exempt you from mitigation testing that week.
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.
What if I’m selected to test and I miss my scheduled testing week?Your building access app. will turn to “denied” until a negative test result is received to your Safer Community app.
About the Saliva Testing Program
Why do we have required testing in spring when we didn’t have it in the fall?Based on a recommendation from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, the university is operating a mandatory saliva testing program in the spring 2021 semester. Recent surging in the spread of COVID-19 across the country has necessitated additional surveillance testing measures to promote health and safety within our campus community. This is a critical step to monitor for potential infection both on and off campus. Mandatory testing helps ensure that our university can safely continue in its missions of education, research and engagement. It is an extra layer in our broader approach — which includes wearing face coverings, observing social distancing guidelines and frequent hand washing — to limit spread of the virus on campus and in the Lincoln community.
Earlier messaging said testing would be every two weeks. Has that changed?Working at the direction and encouragement of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, we are taking an evidence-based approach to match our testing requirements with the level of risk. Conditions have changed since we initially started planning the spring semester testing program in late November and early December 2020. Case counts in Nebraska and Lancaster County have declined since early December and vaccine distribution has begun. This evidence-based strategy will give us a true picture of what’s actually happening on campus and allow us to dial up or dial back as needed going forward.
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 your Safer Community app will show an “Access Granted” status 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. You will be able to enter university buildings using the Safer Community app.
- You are a student living in Lincoln or Lancaster County who is not enrolled in any in-person classes AND you do not plan to physically come to any UNL Lincoln campuses in spring 2021. You will be unable to enter university buildings (your app will show no entry permitted) unless you begin to participate in the testing program.
- You can provide documentation that participation in the testing program entails an especially burdensome hardship. Exemptions for this case will be rare.
Can I submit positive antigen test results to support an exemption from the saliva-based testing program?Yes, you may submit antigen test results for consideration if you also have an accompanying note from a medical provider that shows you experienced COVID-19 symptoms at the time of the positive test result. If you do not have such documentation, you will not be able to receive an exemption. Learn more: Interim Guidance for Antigen Testing for SARS-CoV-2 from the CDC.
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. Thus, results will not trigger an “access granted” status for campus buildings. 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.
Why are there two styles of testing on campus?The university’s saliva-based testing program is intended to mitigate spread of the virus by identifying individuals, particularly those not showing symptoms, who have COVID-19. It also works in concert with the Safer Community app, allowing those on campus to be tested and have access to university facilities. Nasal-based testing offered at the TestNebraska site on 17th Street (between R and Vine streets, outside the Willa Cather Dining Center) and at the University Health Center is intended for individuals who are showing COVID-19 symptoms or suspect they have been exposed.
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, do not use a saliva-based testing location. Instead, schedule a test immediately with the TestNebraska symptomatic/on-demand site near the Willa Cather Dining Center. 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. If you are negative, you will be expected to take a saliva test to get back on track with the campus testing program.
Where is the lab?Processing and analysis of all saliva samples will occur at the Veterinary Diagnostic Center on East Campus.
Can I help with the new saliva testing protocol?Yes, the university is seeking current employees and student workers who have time to assist with the saliva testing at a variety of levels. Positions include helping within the lab itself, working collection sites and serving as wellness attendants. Approvals by a supervisor for current employees are needed before a time commitment can be made.
Mobile Application and Access to Campus Facilities
How does the mobile app work?Information on use of the Safer Community app can be found on the Safer Community App page.
What is a wellness attendant?Wellness attendants are students or staff stationed at building entrances and charged with granting or denying access to individuals seeking entry. Students, faculty and staff are required to show a negative test result via the Safer Community app or a Safer Community Status Card to be admitted.
Where will building access status be checked?Wellness attendants may be posted inside entrances to campus facilities. In those facilities, all other entrances may be locked.
Why does my app sometimes show "Access Denied" when first opened?Depending on the quality of your Internet connection, the Safer Community app may show an "Access Denied" when first opened. Once it has connected, it will retrieve your results and refresh the screen accordingly.
What if there is no one checking access at the door of my building?If there is no wellness attendant on duty at your building, and if you are current on your testing and not supposed to be in isolation or quarantine, please proceed as you normally would. Wellness attendants will not necessarily be at every building every day.
Will entrances to campus buildings be locked unless there is a wellness attendant present?No, campus buildings are not locked down. Buildings still have their regularly scheduled open and close times independent of whether there is a wellness attendant staffing an entrance. If a building will have wellness attendants monitoring entrances, the other doors to that building will be locked to encourage traffic flow through the monitored entrances. Individuals who have N Card access to buildings are asked to use monitored entrances when wellness attendants are in use.
What if waiting in line to verify my building access status makes me late for class?It is your responsibility as a student to allow sufficient time to pass the Wellness Attendant station without being late to class. Especially at the start of the semester, please leave sufficient time to have your entry status reviewed prior to entering your classroom building. To help keep lines short, please have your app or printed status card out and ready.
What if I miss a class because I am denied entrance to a building because of testing program requirements?If you miss a class because your pass does not allow you access to a building, it is your responsibility to contact your instructor as soon as possible to make alternative plans for addressing missed course work and class assignments. It is the responsibility of each student to make sure they are compliant with testing program requirements.
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. You can print a pass noting your "building access granted" status to show to wellness attendants. If you don't have access to a printer, we've made two print kiosks available, located at the 17th & R Parking Garage on City Campus and at the East Campus Service Building.
Contracted employees and vendors are not able to participate in the on-campus testing program. How will they gain entry to buildings?Contractors and vendors working in buildings will be granted access so long as they are observing UNL COVID-19 policies and procedures (e.g., distancing, wearing facial coverings, not entering when ill or during any time that they should be observing quarantine or isolation, etc). These individuals are expected to wear identifying uniforms or provide identification and explain the reason for their entry into the building to Wellness Attendants upon request.
Visitors are not able to participate in the on-campus testing program. How will they gain entry to buildings?
The university is discouraging non-business visitors at this time. Visitors (non-faculty, staff, students) who have business in the building where Wellness Attendants are present will need to be escorted into the building at the Wellness Attendant screening area by the person having business with the visitor. The person hosting the visitor will be responsible for ensuring the visitor is wearing a face covering and is utilizing proper social distancing.
Prospective students and families should be accompanied by Admissions or Department guides who can show their app with approved building access to Wellness Attendants.
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 for the purposes of indicating your clearance to enter campus facilities. See Safer Community Privacy Statement.
Test Scheduling and Collection Sites
When did testing begin?Testing locations for the majority of campus opened on Jan. 19. 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.
I want to schedule my follow-up test but it says the testing locations are closed on the date that I’m trying to schedule.The app only allows scheduling of tests 5 days in advance. Once you get closer to the date for which you’d like to schedule, you should be able to schedule it.
Where do I go for testing?Testing is offered at multiple locations on City, East and Nebraska Innovation 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, contact your healthcare provider or the University Health Center. Testing for individuals who are showing symptoms or who suspect exposure is available on campus through the TestNebraska site on 17th Street between R and Vine streets (outside the Willa S. Cather Dining Complex) and at the University Health Center.
How will I receive results?You will receive your results through your Safer Community App. In addition to scheduling your appointments, Safer Community supports daily building access and notifications of your results. If you don't have a smartphone, you can view your results and printable building access passes 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.
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. Please be sure to return phone messages/or emails from PHAT 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. Residence hall students should contact Residence Life at 402-472-1717 to arrange for isolation housing. Students who need help finding a place to stay to follow isolation guidance can contact Student Advocacy and Support at 402-472-3204.
How will my results be used?The results will feed into the Safer Community app, which students, faculty and staff can use to gain access to campus facilities, by showing a current negative test result to wellness attendants stationed at doorways. (Members of the UNL community who don't own smartphones can present a Safer Community Status Card.) Results will also be used to trigger contact tracing conducted by the UNL Public Health Advocacy Team in coordination with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.
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 for the purposes of indicating your clearance to enter campus facilities. If you are not clear to enter facilities, wellness attendants will only know that you either have not completed a recent test or that you recently tested positive; it will not be clear that you tested positive. 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 Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD). All COVID-19 test results from all entities that conduct testing are required to be shared with LLCHD during the COVID-19 pandemic. See Safer Community Privacy Statement.
How long will saliva sample materials be kept?All sample materials are disposed of after three days, following established bio safety 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?All UNL students living within Lincoln and Lancaster County are required to participate in the saliva testing program unless they have received an approved exemption. UNL students living outside of Lincoln and Lancaster County but who come physically to one of the Lincoln campuses in spring 2021, such as for in-person classes or work, are also 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 will be subject to disciplinary measures, including being unable to access campus facilities.
How can my employer require me to divulge my medical information, and prevent my access to buildings based on my medical condition?
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.