Forum explores plan to return to campus

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | June 18, 2020

Image with caption: From left, Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., and Ted Cieslak, M.D., interim executive director for health security at UNMC

From left, Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., and Ted Cieslak, M.D., interim executive director for health security at UNMC

At Wednesday's virtual all-campus forum to address the UNMC community, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., thanked our students, faculty and staff. He recognized the seriousness of the viral pandemic, economic hardships, social isolation and ongoing racial injustices that have filled the headlines.

"These concerns have not abated," he said. "They are pervasive, and we are going to have a continued impact as we deal with these and other challenges and opportunities ahead."

To help navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare the campus for in-person teaching and learning, Dr. Gold this week announced the appointment of Ted Cieslak, M.D., as interim executive director for health security at UNMC.

On Wednesday, Dr. Cieslak joined the chancellor and laid out seven "simple maneuvers" for returning to campus this upcoming fall semester:

    1. Work and study at home when it is not necessary to be on campus.
    2. If you are ill, or your family is ill, stay home. We trust you to self-identify.
    3. If you do need to come to campus, self-screen using the 1-Check COVID app.
    4. Wash hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds (or the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself twice).
    5. Be mindful of cleaning your work area. Environmental Services staff are diligent, but, "We ask that you help out," Dr. Cieslak said.
    6. Mask up. Studies show masks are an effective tool to help prevent transmission of the virus, particularly by people who have COVID-19 but don't know it.
    7. Keep a physical distance of at least six feet.

The Global Center for Health Security Pandemic Recovery Acceleration Model (PRAM) dashboard shows increasing trends from red to yellow to green, thus the re-opening. But, "Everything we do is about double and triple redundancy as far as safety," Dr. Cieslak said.

UNMC's Higher Education COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Guide is used widely across the U.S., and was the model for many other colleges and universities, the Big Ten, the Early Childhood guide and others. The seven maneuvers outlined by Dr. Cieslak all directly relate to the basic principles outlined in this publicly available mitigation guide.

Dr. Gold also addressed UNMC's budget, which is affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. On Friday, the University of Nebraska will make public the budget information to be presented to NU's Board of Regents on June 26. NU President Ted Carter will host a press conference to brief the public on what has been developed and will be presented to the Regents the following week.

"That will be followed up by direct communications from UNMC leadership to the campus with more detail that is campus specific," Dr. Gold said.

"I am guardedly optimistic that for the most part we can grow through this, although there will very likely need to be some reductions over the three-year budget cycle," he said.

When asked about the possibility of cutting jobs, Dr. Gold said he hoped that it would not come to that, but if ultimately necessary RIFs would be a last resort behind growth, normal attrition and reduced hours: "10 out of 10 times I'm going to come down on the most humane side," he said.

Dr. Gold discussed additional topics including:

  • Continued work on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), led by Sheritta Strong, M.D., interim director of inclusion. "I have a pretty long list of homework that came out of my listening sessions," Dr. Gold said, but noted that there are currently 104 active ongoing strategic initiatives directly related to DEI. Please click here to listen to a recording of the June 8 all-campus listening session, and to read answers to questions that did not get addressed during that session due to time constraints.
  • The recent Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ worker protection: "We commend that, and much work is necessary for us to fully understand and embrace the impact of the ruling," he said.
  • Continued construction, including an early fall/late summer opening for the McGoogan library renovation, which the chancellor called "magnificent."
  • Reporting any safety concerns. Campus questions about COVID-19 safety should be directed to For immediate public safety concerns, call 402-559-5111. UNMC Public Safety's emergency number is 402-559-5555.
  • A possible "second wave" for COVID-19? "Let's try to get through the first wave," Dr. Gold said. Dr. Cieslak said he is "cautiously optimistic" that a second wave might not have the "vengeance" of the first.

Dr. Gold closed by wishing well and once more thanking all UNMC students, faculty and staff for their dedication, their perseverance and the excellence across all domains of our mission.


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