Classroom contact tracing and directed saliva testing programs
Dear faculty and staff,
As the new academic year is now underway, we hope that you are settling into your routines and connecting with your colleagues and students. We understand that the start of the fall 2021 semester has brought with it new responsibilities for your own personal health and the health of our campus. There are several measures in place to ensure a safe learning and working environment, such as masking for all students and staff indoors, vaccination requirements, regular COVID-19 testing for those who cannot be vaccinated and contact tracing.
These proactive measures are critical actions that will help limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus. As part of our commitment to provide a safe environment for learning and research, we also will launch two additional initiatives the week of Sept. 7: a classroom contact tracing initiative and a COVID-19 surveillance testing program focused on sampling specific audiences that will further protect our UIC community.
Contact tracing and seating assignments
During the week of Sept. 7, we have asked that faculty implement measures to use classroom seating assignments, if feasible, as outlined in a communication on Aug. 27. In the event of a COVID-19 exposure, this record will be used by the UIC Contact Tracing team to assess risk and provide guidance to those who may have been in close contact with an individual while they are thought to have been contagious. If someone in a classroom tests positive for COVID-19, UIC’s Contact Tracing team will reach out to the individual student(s) and to the instructor, for details to assist with contact tracing efforts. You can find additional guidance to implement assigned seating or other methods to identify the location of students in the classroom, lab or learning environment online. These measures will provide the detailed information needed by contact tracing if there is a COVID-19 exposure in a classroom setting.
While class attendance is always expected, we have communicated to all students that they should make every effort to be present and on time at all classes Sept. 7-10 to determine how each of their instructors prefer to roll out the use of seating assignments, taking attendance or having students record who they are sitting near or working with in groups to assist with contact tracing efforts.
COVID-19 directed surveillance testing
As an additional measure to closely monitor the prevalence of disease in our community, we will begin directed COVID-19 surveillance testing the week of Sept. 7. Specific units and departments will be contacted throughout the semester, on a rotating basis, to have employees and students voluntarily participate in on-campus saliva testing, regardless of vaccination status. We encourage you to take part in this surveillance testing initiative to help inform current and future health and safety measures on campus. Individuals may also choose to voluntarily obtain a saliva test at any time, regardless of vaccination status.
Thank you for embracing these additional contact tracing and testing measures and for doing your best to contribute to a healthy and safe learning and working environment for all.
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Robert Barish, MD, MBA
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs