Several people aired concerns to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents on Friday regarding the university system’s recently announced COVID-19 safety protocols.
Some criticized the use of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s voluntary vaccine registration program and Safer Community App, which is used by students to schedule COVID-19 testing and access results.
“The University of Nebraska is shamelessly endorsing totalitarianism,” one student said in reference to the voluntary registration program.
Others entirely rejected the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, which health officials around the world endorse as the best tool in the fight against the virus.
University officials contend that their protocols are based on science and the guidance of public health experts.
“Our priority is the health and safety of every member of the University of Nebraska community. We all want this pandemic to be behind us, but right now we need to pull together and continue to take reasonable measures to keep each other safe,” NU President Ted Carter said in a press release earlier this month.
Though the NU system — which includes UNL, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Kearney — is recommending that all members of its community be vaccinated against COVID-19, it is not requiring faculty, students or staff to prove their vaccination status, instead asking them to operate on the honor system.
“Most importantly, the chancellors and I urge every Nebraskan to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Carter said. “The vaccines are safe, effective and the surest way back to the activities we all love.”
Faculty, students and staff who have received a COVID-19 vaccine will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks indoors when classes resume later this month.
Those not vaccinated are required to wear masks in campus buildings to slow the spread of the virus, in line with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
UNMC is the lone exception to the system’s mask guidance. Indoor mask use is required for all students, faculty and staff.
UNO strongly recommends wearing masks in indoor spaces. All gatherings on or off the UNO campus with 25 or more people will require senior administration approval.
UNL is following the guidelines put forward by Carter but will allow faculty members who have family members unable to get vaccinated to request that students wear masks in their classrooms.
UNL is also requiring all campus community members, regardless of vaccination status, to complete one “reentry saliva-based testing” round between Aug. 15 and Aug. 22.
Those who have been vaccinated will then be exempt from future saliva-based testing, while those who haven’t received a shot will be required to participate in several rounds of weekly tests.
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department reported two new COVID-19 deaths Friday. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday reported an increase of 2,575 cases from the week before.
This report includes material from the Lincoln Journal Star.