Reminders from UIC contract tracing

Key takeaways:

  • Social gatherings and travel led to a COVID-19 surge among UIC citizens following Halloween that continued through the winter holidays. With Spring Break coming soon, we wish to remind UIC citizen about the need to maintain prevention behaviors.
  • Avoid gatherings with individuals outside of your household. If you do gather, wear a mask, practice social distancing, and do not share food and drinks.
  • Avoid travel, and if you do travel report it to UIC contact tracing.
  • Please also report any symptoms, positive tests, or exposures to a known or suspected COVID-positive person.

The city of Chicago and the state of Illinois are currently experiencing some of the lowest positivity rates since the beginning of the pandemic, which many experts attribute to the end of holiday travel, increased COVID-19 restrictions, personal adoption of prevention behaviors (like mask-wearing and social distancing), and to a lesser extent, increased vaccination.

However, with several holidays often celebrated through large social gatherings coming up, such as Easter, as well as Spring Break beginning in less than a week, it is important to remember that COVID-19 is still in our communities. With COVID-19 variants on the rise and much of the U.S. population still unvaccinated, it is possible that vacation travel and other social gatherings could cause campus, city, and state COVID-19 rates to increase again.

In the Fall, UIC contact tracing observed a sharp surge in cases following Halloween weekend when there were several large gatherings (> 100 people) and a number of small get-togethers (< 10 people) attended by COVID-positive individuals who were infectious at the time. At many of these gatherings, attendees met indoors, did not wear masks, mixed with several other households, and did not practice social distancing. Inevitably, this led to many UIC citizens becoming infected and subsequently infecting other UIC citizens. This high-level of disease continued through November, December, and the beginning of January as UIC citizens traveled to visit family members for the winter holidays, continuing to mix households without utilizing the prevention methods we know work: wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and meeting outside if you plan to gather. 

UIC contact tracing knows it is difficult to miss out on another year of celebrations and vacations; however, we implore you to please take the precautions we outline below to protect yourselves, your friends and family members in your community, your friends and colleagues at UIC, and also our public health and healthcare systems.

To keep us all safe and healthy, please:

  • Gather with friends and family virtually, as it is the only foolproof way of ensuring COVID-19 does not spread among your loved ones.
  • If you choose to gather with others:
    • Meet outside.
    • Wear masks at all times. Please see the CDC’s guidance on improving how your mask functions.
    • Practice social distancing of 6 feet or more with anyone who is not a member of your household, even if you are wearing a mask. This applies to trusted friends, family, and coworkers.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Anyone at risk for severe complications should not gather with others who live outside of their household.
  • Avoid travel – airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.
  • Continue compliance with mandatory campus saliva testing if you are coming to campus, but remember that a negative COVID-19 test only means you were negative on the day you were tested. You can become positive and begin to infect others up to 14 days after your last exposure, so all guests staying home and self-isolating for 14 days prior to gathering is the only way to truly protect individuals at an in-person gathering.
  • You can experience no symptoms and still spread COVID-19 to others; approximately 40% of all cases have no symptoms, and those individuals who do develop symptoms are infectious two days before their symptoms start.

And remember, if you experience symptoms of COVID-19, test positive for COVID-19, have a close contact exposure to someone with COVID-19, or travel out of state, please inform campus by using the UIC COVID-19 reporting decision tool.

Please help keep all of your friends, families, and our UIC community safe by staying home and spending time with other household members, or with other friends and family virtually.

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