Addressing Increased COVID-19 Positivity on Campus
Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,
Until this week, UIC experienced an on-campus saliva testing positivity rate with a 7-day rolling average of well below 1%. However, the current 7-day rolling average has more than doubled in the past two weeks to 1.51%. This trend of increasing test positivity is also seen within UI Health, the city of Chicago, and the state of Illinois as well.
Through our contact tracing efforts, we have determined that the overwhelming majority of new cases are contracting COVID-19 away from campus through household transmission or social gatherings and that some UIC students and employees are coming to campus despite mild symptoms of COVID-19 (fatigue, cold symptoms). UIC has not seen forward transmission of COVID-19 in the classroom due to the protective measures being adhered to on campus, therefore the in-person classes can continue as planned. The greatest risk on campus is during breaks at work, between classes, when eating, meeting or socializing in person. The rising positivity rate is still concerning and we want individuals to be aware of how to protect themselves to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
Due to these trends, we implore all UIC students and employees to take the following precautions:
- Adhere to prevention methods of masking, social distancing, hand-washing, and disinfecting. These methods should be practiced at all times outside of your household. Do not remove your mask when speaking to be heard more clearly, or when socializing with friends and family outside your household. Wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing; prevention of COVID-19 transmission is greatest when these two methods are used simultaneously.
- Get tested for COVID-19. Any UIC student, faculty, or staff can access saliva testing on campus. However, if you have had a known exposure to a COVID-positive person or have COVID-19 symptoms, you should seek diagnostic testing which is available through Student Health Services and University Health Services.
- When you eat or drink, you should be at least 6 feet from others. If you are speaking or shouting, you should be further than 6 feet.
- Do not assume trusted friends and coworkers are COVID-free. Approximately 40% of all cases may not show symptoms (asymptomatic), and the main source of transmission among campus members is through their social relationships. It is always possible that someone is infectious in your classroom or office, on the bus, at a friend’s house, or in a bar and these people are unknowingly spreading the virus. Even when you know or trust someone, you need to engage in the prevention behaviors noted above.
- Safeguard and evaluate your workplace. Prior to coming to campus, you are required to complete the UIC Healthcheck. While you are on campus you are required to wear a face covering unless you are in your private office and you should sanitize your hands and workspaces frequently. If you are a supervisor and your employees do not have sufficient space to practice social distancing while working or on breaks, contact the Environmental Health and Safety Office. The campus is committed to keeping faculty, staff and students safe.
- Stay home and seek testing if you or a household member is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms no matter how mild. Please remember to report COVID-19 symptoms, exposure to a COVID-positive individual, and external positive tests through the appropriate campus mechanism.
The UIC COVID-19 Contact Tracing and Epidemiology Program rapidly and robustly investigate all cases among our UIC community, in collaboration with University Health Services and Infection Prevention. Whenever there is a UIC community member who tests positive, the contact tracing teams identify exposed UIC individuals and moves them into quarantine regardless of whether or not this exposure occurred on campus, and also identifies campus spaces that need to be disinfected. This is all done quickly and in compliance with public health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Additionally, all campus cases are reported on a dashboard that is publicly available.
Using epidemiologic data, UIC has implemented targeted, short-term, mandatory saliva testing among groups who have a sudden increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases. This process has been used for several campus residence halls, Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), some individuals in the College of Pharmacy, and most recently in the College of Dentistry. The results of these efforts have been reassuring that our contact tracing efforts are successfully identifying and isolating cases, and subsequently quarantining their close contacts to interrupt chains of transmission on campus.
We know that 2020 has been a year of great uncertainty, but it is important for you to vigilantly adhere to these prevention methods with anyone outside your household and while in public. These measures are a civic responsibility that requires the participation of all community members. We must all be mindful of this responsibility and remember that by practicing these behaviors we are not only protecting ourselves and our loved ones but also protecting the entire community by reducing the transmission of COVID-19.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Dr. Robert Barish
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs
Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs