Celebrating Thanksgiving Safely

Dear students, faculty and staff,

Due to the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout the city, state, and country we want to remind everyone about measures that you can take to protect those around you as you prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Public health officials, as well as our own UIC experts, caution that you should not gather indoors with people outside of your immediate household. Many of the recent COVID-19 cases are associated with small gatherings of people who know each other well. If you do choose to gather, you and your loved ones should meet outside, always wear face coverings, and practice social distancing of 6 feet or more. If you choose to enjoy a meal together, make sure to remain farther than 6 feet away from one another, as you will need to remove your mask to eat, do not share food, drinks, or utensils. If eating indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible. In addition, everyone who plans to attend should limit contacts and interactions for 14 days prior to gathering to decrease the risk of bringing COVID-19 to the event.

It is strongly advised that anyone at risk for severe complications not gather with others outside of their household. For additional guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on celebrating Thanksgiving safely.

Remember, a negative COVID-19 test only reassures that someone is negative on the day they were tested. If you had contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, with or without symptoms, it may not show up on a test for up to 14 days, and you may inadvertently expose family or friends in the meantime. 

Obtaining a COVID-19 test before a gathering may be helpful, but only in combination with limiting your contact with those outside of your household. Remember that about 40% of COVID-19 infections are asymptomatic, and individuals who eventually develop symptoms can spread COVID-19 prior to when symptoms start. As such, using symptoms as the guide for when to abstain from contact with others will not completely prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The safest option to celebrate the holiday with friends or family is to gather virtually, as it is the only foolproof way of ensuring COVID-19 does not spread among your loved ones.

If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and have not been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days, we encourage students, faculty and staff to take advantage of free on-campus saliva testing. Please visit the UIC Saliva Testing webpage for hours and locations.

If you plan to travel during the upcoming break, we strongly recommend that you review the City of Chicago’s updated Emergency Travel Order that provides exceptions for essential workers and additional guidance for college students and parents.

In alignment with the stay-at-home advisory that took effect in Chicago and suburban Cook County on Monday, Nov. 16 — combined with the announcement that the state of Illinois will operate under Tier 3 mitigations starting Friday, Nov. 20 — we urge you to follow city and state guidance to protect our community and our health care systems. Supervisors are encouraged to continue to reduce density on campus and allow employees to work remotely based on unit operational needs.

Effective this week, in-person instruction at all UIC sites is suspended, and instruction has moved to online platforms until the end of the fall semester. Limited exceptions have been granted for educational activities that can only be delivered in person (e.g. coursework and activities in the health sciences).

Details on spring semester operations and protocols for return to campus will be sent prior to the end of the fall semester, however, the start date and calendar are not expected to change.

Wishing you a safe Thanksgiving break,

Michael Amiridis

Robert Barish, MD
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs

Susan Bleasdale, MD
Acting Chief Quality Officer and
Medical Director Infection Prevention & Antimicrobial Stewardship at UI Health

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