Novel coronavirus update: March 8, 2020

Dear students, faculty and staff,

It was announced last Thursday that Rush University Medical Center treated a person who returned from Italy who became the fifth person to test positive for COVID-19 in Illinois. While it is understandable to be concerned about COVID-19 — particularly due to the proximity of Rush to UIC — please be reassured that hospitals in the Illinois Medical District treat patients with a variety of infectious diseases on a daily basis. These patients are isolated and treated in appropriate spaces by trained staff using specialized equipment.

On Friday evening it was announced that a staff member at Vaughn Occupational High School, 4355 N. Linder Ave. in Chicago became the sixth person to test positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois. This individual returned to Chicago on February 24, 2020, from a cruise on the Grand Princess where a case of COVID-19 was identified.

Chicago Public Schools announced that Vaughn will close next week. People who have been at Vaughn since Tuesday, Feb. 25, are being asked to stay home through Wednesday, March 18, unless given other direction by the Chicago Department of Public Health. This includes all staff, students and service providers who were in the building since Feb. 25. The CDPH is in the process of identifying everyone who came into contact with the individual at Vaughn Occupational High School.

As Chicago’s largest university, we have students, faculty and staff who work frequently with partners and organizations across the city. We do know that one student from the College of Education visited Vaughn during this time period and will be required to stay home and self-isolate. The student is not ill and did not have contact with the diagnosed staff member at Vaughn. No other Chicago Public Schools are closed. Visit the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) site for details at www.chicago.gov/coronavirus and follow public health guidance to prevent the spread of illness.

Read the CDC guidance for self-isolation and preventing the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick.

If you are a student, faculty or staff and have been to Vaughn since Feb. 25 or if you have recently returned from international travel from an area with COVID-19 activity:

  • Students should contact Student Health at University Village at 312-996-2901 for guidance.
  • Employees should contact University Health Service at 312-996-7420 during business hours or the University of Illinois Hospital at 866-600-CARE (2273) after hours for guidance.

The two newest cases have been related to travel and local public health officials are working to identify any exposures. If someone has been exposed to these newest cases in Chicago they will be contacted by the CDPH.

Many are asking if they can be tested for COVID-19. The following information is helpful:

  • Those individuals identified to have had contact with a person with COVID-19 will be notified and any testing will be done in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Public Health.
  • Hospitals and clinics can only test individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 and only with approval of local public health officials.
  • Symptoms include fevers, cough, or shortness of breath.
  • If you are ill, call your health care provider for guidance. If you are not acutely ill, it is best not to go to the emergency department. If you do not have symptoms they will not be able to test you.

If you have traveled from countries that have increased activity of COVID-19, in particular CDC Travel Alert Level 3 countries, you may be recommended to self-isolate and monitor symptoms. Current Level 3 countries are China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. Please refer to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for up-to-date travel health information at https://www.cdc.gov/travel/notices.

Below are some definitions that may be helpful to guide those asked to self-isolate or monitor symptoms:

Isolation means the separation of a person or group of people known or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease and potentially infectious from those who are not infected to prevent spread of the communicable disease. Isolation for public health purposes may be voluntary or compelled by federal, state, or local public health order.

Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding local public transportation (e.g., bus, subway, taxi, ride share), and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others. If social distancing is recommended, presence in congregate settings or use of local public transportation should only occur with approval of local or state health authorities.

Self-observation means people should remain alert for subjective fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. If they feel feverish or develop cough or difficulty breathing during the self-observation period, they should take their temperature, self-isolate, limit contact with others, and seek advice by telephone from a healthcare provider or their local health department to determine whether medical evaluation is needed.

Self-monitoring means people should monitor themselves for fever by taking their temperatures twice a day and remain alert for cough or difficulty breathing. If they feel feverish or develop measured fever, cough, or difficulty breathing during the self-monitoring period, they should self-isolate, limit contact with others, and seek advice by telephone from a healthcare provider or their local health department to determine whether medical evaluation is needed.

At this time there is no evidence of sustained spread in the Chicago area. Classes continue as scheduled. The campus continues to assess the situation. Faculty are prepared to move live classes on-line if needed to minimize disruption. For now, we ask that students and faculty not attend class if becoming ill.

For campus updates, FAQs and links to additional resources, visit today.uic.edu/coronavirus.

Sincerely,

Robert Barish, MD
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs

John Coronado
Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services

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