UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, began Monday’s all-campus forum, as always, by thanking all for their dedication to UNMC and the communities that we serve. He also praised and noted the passing of Walter Scott Jr., who died last month and was a visionary benefactor to UNMC and our community.
Much of the early part of the discussion focused on the UNMC responses to the current and future aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccines, masks, campus access and more. Jane Meza, PhD, interim executive director for the office of health security, provided several important updates.
More than 90 percent of employees currently are fully vaccinated, and many more have had at least one dose. The student percentage is slightly lower, but updates continue to come in on the Health Tracking System, Dr. Meza said.
Employees having trouble entering information into the Health Tracking System should call the IT help desk, Dr. Meza said. And if they have any questions about COVID-19 vaccines, they can reach out to email@example.com, and a multidisciplinary team is standing by with the best and latest information.
Academic Affairs is handling student requests for waivers and exemptions, and Human Resources is handling requests for employees. There were about 110 requests in each respective group, Dr. Meza said. A few individuals who had requested medical exemptions then requested a religious exemption when declined.
Employees who have received an email from UNMC Health Tracking regarding their vaccination status should respond by either updating their COVID-19 vaccination status into the medical center’s Health Tracking System or by replying with any questions, D.r Meza said.
On Oct. 22, UNMC will begin notifying leadership of individuals who have not met the vaccine requirement. HR will begin working with individuals on a process of corrective action. Dr. Gold said "we will do everything we can" in order to keep people within the med center family, including notice periods and extensions, before full separation.
Drs. Gold and Meza urged individuals to take advantage of free COVID-19 saliva testing available four days a week at the UNMC Ice Rink. But, as necessary, "Get tested in a way that is convenient for you," Dr. Meza said, and if testing is dome elsewhere, then notify your supervisor and Employee Health or Student Health.
Safety measures like masking, and approval for events hosting more than 25 people, continue due to a high level of community spread. Dr. Gold said Nebraska Medicine is in the "contingency" zone of operation. "People are working very hard to stay out of the crisis level," he said.
UNMC employees and students who previously received Pfizer vaccines are eligible for Pfizer boosters as administered by Nebraska Medicine, but boosters are not currently part of the medical center’s vaccine requirement.
Volunteers will be issued COVID-19 stickers after completing a short request form to request a COVID-19 vaccine sticker for their UNMC ID badge. All volunteers coming to a UNMC campus should complete the request form prior to Oct. 22.
Dr. Gold closed the forum after answering many questions with a request to everyone to "Express gratitude, and express grace."
In other forum highlights, Dr. Gold:
- Congratulated Kenneth Cowan, MD, PhD, and the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, for the successful renewal of its National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant;
- Urged everyone to put the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, into their phones, and to be mindful of one another’s well-being;
- Called attention to a new wellness program being piloted by the College of Pharmacy, in which second-year students are automatically "opted in" to an appointment with a counselor;
- Reminded us that the university’s Chosen Name and Gender Identity Policy is in effect -- simply log in to Firefly;
- Emphasized the importance of NU’s Executive Memorandum 44, on sexual misconduct minimum training standards;
- Brought attention to an upcoming University of Nebraska Foundation capital campaign, led at the med center by Karen and Dr. James Linder;
- Again hailed efforts on working toward continued diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, including the Giver Her a Reason to Stay in Healthcare gender-equity campaign;
- Asked that the med center achieve the highest response rate to a climate survey from the NU Office of the President.