COVID-19 Safety Tips
Dear students, faculty and staff,
The University of Illinois Chicago’s saliva testing program has given the university real-time data about emerging trends in COVID-19 positive cases among members of our community. The saliva testing program is a screening tool specifically for people who are not displaying symptoms of COVID-19, and who have not had a known close contact exposure (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) with someone who is COVID-19 positive.
This was the sixth week of the screening program and there was an increase in the number of positive saliva tests. The Contact Tracing and Epidemiology Program (CCTEP) has connected many of these cases to a series of off-campus social gatherings involving students who reside both on and off campus. These investigations are ongoing and it is possible that more students will be identified who acquired COVID-19 at these social gatherings or were exposed to infected persons who were part of this affected group. To prevent further spread, infected people are being asked to isolate and those who have had contact with them are being placed in quarantine for a 14-day period that begins from the date of last contact with the infected individual.
Since the UIC saliva testing began on Monday, August 17th, 69 individuals have tested positive out of 13,168 tests performed, for a cumulative positivity rate of 0.52. Of the 69 individuals who tested positive, 16 (23%) were associated with social gatherings. Another 32 UIC-affiliated people were exposed to these individuals through close contact at these social gatherings, and 10 of those have tested positive, five through saliva testing. The other 48 COVID-19 positive individuals (70%) could not be linked to another case at UIC and these people may have acquired infection through contact with infected individuals in communities outside UIC.
There is currently no evidence of active person-to-person transmission within our UIC community, except for at these few social gatherings noted above. We attribute this to a high level of compliance of our established public health and safety protocols on campus.
UIC’s experience reflects trends seen across Chicago and the rest of the United States. The transmission observed at social gatherings emphasizes the need for mask-wearing and social distancing, even at small get-togethers. All of these reported social gatherings involved groups ranging in size from two to 25 people, which demonstrates that simply restricting the size of gatherings does not alone provide adequate protection against COVID-19.
As such, we would like to remind UIC community members to follow these important public health practices which can help protect you, your friends, family, and others you choose to spend time with from becoming infected with COVID-19, especially as the weather starts to turn colder and we start to move indoors to spend time:
- Wear a mask
- Watch your distance
- Avoiding sharing drinks, food, smoking/vaping apparatuses, and other utensils
- When possible, move social gatherings outdoors
- Avoid crowds
- Wash your hands
- Disinfect common surfaces
- Schedule regular saliva testing on campus
These practices should be applied even when you are gathering with people outside your household even those you know and trust. Remember, people infected with COVID-19 can pass the virus to others before they know they are infected, even if they never feel sick.
UIC campus saliva testing is accessible to any current student, staff, or faculty, and it is possible to schedule weekly tests up to 3 weeks in advance. If you are engaging in social activities, saliva testing should be a regular part of your prevention toolkit in addition to all of the other items listed above, as testing is the only way to know if you are infected with COVID-19.
Do NOT take the saliva test and instead contact a provider for clinical testing
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19
- If you know that you have been exposed to an individual who is positive for COVID (for at least 15 minutes, within 6 feet)
- If you have had a positive COVID-19 test within 90 days.
For more information, on how to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, and other COVID-19 related topics, please see UIC’s FAQ page.
Susan Bleasdale, MD
Acting Chief Quality Officer and
Medical Director Infection Prevention & Antimicrobial Stewardship
Ronald Hershow, MD
Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UIC School of Public Health and Associate Professor of Epidemiology
Ellen Stein, MS
Director, UIC COVID-19 Contact Tracing and Epidemiology Program