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Masks again required at UNL, including Husker games

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UNL in-person class

University of Nebraska-Lincoln students attend a class in masks on the first day of in-person classes in August 2020.

Faculty and students will be required to mask up indoors and take a COVID-19 test when they return to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln later this month.

UNL officials said Wednesday that they will require masks indoors, including at all university events, until further notice as the omicron variant spreads rapidly across the nation.

That includes Husker games, beginning with Friday's wrestling dual against Purdue at the Devaney Sports Center.

"None of us wanted to start 2022 preparing for another surge of COVID-19," UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green said in a news release. "But the omicron variant has rapidly taken hold, and we need to take these actions to help ensure the safety of our campus community." 

Masks were required in indoor settings during the fall semester at UNL, as the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department had a mask mandate in place. The countywide mandate -- the only one of its kind in Nebraska -- was allowed to expire before Christmas, just as positive coronavirus cases again began to skyrocket.

Health Director Pat Lopez continues to say that masks are strongly recommended but has not reinstated the jurisdictional mandate.

UNL previously intended to transition to course-specific masks requirements for the spring, but the omicron variant -- considered to be more transmissible than previous strains -- changed those plans.

The university, in consultation with local health officials, will monitor community conditions before revisiting those plans, Green said.

Additionally, UNL students will be required to take a COVID-19 test the week of Jan. 14 after returning to campus. Classes resume Jan. 18.

Faculty, staff and student workers who have already returned to campus are asked to test next week. UNL will continue random mitigation testing the week of Jan. 24.

The university also announced changes to its COVID isolation policies following new guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the new guidelines, those who test positive will be required to isolate for at least five days. After the fifth day, if an individual is fever-free with all other symptoms improving, they may resume activities but must mask up.

Students who live in residence halls or Greek houses will be required to sleep and eat in isolation for an additional five days.

Testing sites located at both of UNL's campuses will hold expanded hours Jan. 14-21. The sites, at the Nebraska Union on City Campus and East Campus' student union, will be open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays and noon-6 p.m. on weekends.

The drive-thru testing site just east of Memorial Stadium will continue operating 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday and 2-5 p.m. Sundays.

Students and staff can use the Safer Community app to schedule tests, but the app will no longer be used for access to campus buildings or events.

Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 with a PCR test in the past 90 days may request a testing exemption online.

UNL is hosting two vaccine and booster clinics Jan. 26. The first will be held 9 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Nebraska Union Ballroom, followed by one at the Prairie Suite at the East Campus student union from 3-5 p.m.

This is a developing story. Stay with JournalStar.com for updates.

Contact the writer at zhammack@journalstar.com or 402-473-7225. On Twitter @zach_hammack

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