UIC classroom public health guidance for faculty

Last Updated: September 1, 2022

The UIC COVID-19 Contact Tracing and Epidemiology Program has made several changes to streamline operations and ensure rapid service to the UIC community that can be sustained during periods of high incidence.  Data collection and communication methods are now largely email-based. Please monitor your UIC inbox closely and encourage fellow colleagues and students to do so as well. Email communications will primarily come from uic_contact_tracing@uic.edu.

How faculty can address student questions about reporting COVID-19 symptoms, exposures and positive COVID-19 tests to Contact Tracing.

  1. A student reports they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Instruct the student to stay home and report their symptoms via the UIC COVID-19 Reporting Decision Tool, no matter how mild. The Tool will direct the student to the appropriate place to report their symptoms. Once they report their symptoms, they will receive guidance from Contact Tracing on testing and whether or not they can continue coming to campus.
  2. A student reports they tested positive for COVID-19. Instruct the student to stay home. They should report their positive test via the Tool if they tested off-campus; if they tested on campus Contact Tracing will receive the result automatically. and initiate the contact tracing process. Students should monitor their email for initial communications from our team inbox (uic_contact_tracing@uic.edu). Please encourage the student to complete the survey as quickly as possible after receiving the email from us so they can receive tailored guidance, isolation support, and so we can quickly identify any UIC affiliate who was potentially exposed. UIC Contact Tracing will contact them again via email for subsequent surveys to provide additional follow-up. No further action is required on the instructor’s part unless they receive communications from UIC Contact Tracing, 312-355-2555 or cctepsupervisors@uic.edu. Contact Tracing will promptly interview the case and reach out to any exposed UIC affiliates. Instructors can also suggest that the student consider contacting persons who they believe they exposed during their infectious period, which can be done anonymously online. As a note, UIC’s current policy is that all individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or are likely positive for COVID-19 isolate for a minimum of seven days. If an individual is asymptomatic or if their symptoms have improved* then the individual must adhere to strict masking in ALL SETTINGS ON UIC’S CAMPUS THROUGH DAY 10 OF ILLNESS (calculated from symptom onset, if symptomatic, or date of positive test, if asymptomatic). If the criteria for returning to participation are not met, then the individual will need to remain in home isolation.
  3. A student reports they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Instruct the student to report their exposure via the Tool. After reporting their exposure, the student can expect to receive an email communication to their UIC inbox from uic_contact_tracing@uic.edu with instructions to complete a brief survey. UIC’s current policy is that fully vaccinated and boosted persons and fully vaccinated persons not yet eligible for the booster vaccine, who were not exposed in their household or another high-risk scenario, are required to test 5-9 days after the exposure and can continue participating in class and all other campus activities as long as they remain symptom-free. Persons who are not fully vaccinated or are fully vaccinated and eligible for the booster vaccine but have not yet received their booster, and all persons who were exposed in their household or another high-risk scenario, regardless of vaccination status, will be instructed to stay home and begin quarantine. The survey sent to the student will collect information needed to determine whether they will need to quarantine and for how long. Please encourage the student to complete the survey as quickly as possible after reporting their exposure so they can receive tailored guidance for quarantine, testing, and symptom monitoring. UIC Contact Tracing will contact them again via email for subsequent surveys after their last exposure for further follow-up. We will be closely monitoring all surveys for indications of symptoms or a positive test, if either are reported, our team will reach out to the student via phone to provide further guidance and support, per item 1. above.

How faculty can address concerns and questions about campus Contact Tracing and COVID-19 risk reductions in the classroom.

  1. I’m not sure when to expect communication from Contact Tracing about students. If the student reported a positive COVID-19 test instructors can normally expect to hear from UIC Contact Tracing within 48 hours of the student reporting their test as long as the student attended class while infectious. The email will come from uic_contact_tracing@uic.edu or cctepsupervisors@uic.edu. Once a student is identified as having attended work while infectious, we will act rapidly to provide guidance to you and your class. If the student reported having symptoms of COVID-19 or having had an exposure to someone with COVID-19, instructors will not hear from UIC Contact Tracing unless the student tests positive for COVID-19 or is likely infected with COVID-19 based on current public health guidelines.  
  2. UIC Contact Tracing reached out because a student attended class while infectious. Contact tracing will work to determine if a positive student exposed any other class members. If an individual was determined to be exposed, they will be individually notified by email to their UIC inbox and will receive instructions for completing our intake survey.  In most cases, Contact Tracing will email the instructor and all class participants to notify them that a student in their class tested positive for COVID-19 or is likely infected with COVID-19 based on current public health guidelines and also provide testing guidance. In rare situations (e.g., in the event of a masking breach), a UIC Contact Tracing supervisor will email the instructor for information about the class’s general structure (e.g., activities, organization) and seating records. In those instances, instructors and students will receive an email summarizing our investigation and indicating what actions are needed, if any. In these investigations, the student’s name will not be revealed per confidentiality protocols.
  3. I’m not sure how Contact Tracing determined whether someone had an exposure in class. Contact Tracing collects detailed epidemiologic information about any potential close contact with a COVID-positive individual. This includes but is not limited to distance, duration of contact, activities, ventilation, location, and masking. Contact Tracing then follows the most up-to-date guidance to determine whether the encounter constituted close contact, which is generally defined as >15 min of contact within < 6-ft distance.
  4. I’d like to know more about the risk of COVID-19 transmission in UIC classrooms. During fall 2021 semester Contact Tracing assessed classroom safety on a weekly basis and disseminated findings to campus leadership. Among the 241 classroom-based case investigations Contact Tracing completed during fall 2021, they observed one possible transmission event involving an unvaccinated person exposed during a classroom meeting.  
  5. Will we be using Acadly in the classroom? Yes. Contact Tracing intends to fully utilize Acadly by the fall 2022 semester. Instructors should utilize this time to become familiar and comfortable with using the software and integrating its use into classroom processes. General information on Acadly and training materials and tutorial videos can be found online.

How to address student noncompliance with prevention recommendations, reporting requirements, and how to develop plans to make your classroom safer regarding COVID-19.

A student refused to comply with UIC COVID-19 policies, for example, by not wearing a mask in class, showing up in class after being told to quarantine/isolate or refusing to report a positive test result.

Students are not wearing a mask will be asked to get a mask before returning to class. If the student refuses, then they may be asked by the instructor to immediately leave class and may be reported to the Dean of Students using the COVID-19 Non-Compliance Report. If a student refuses to wear a mask and refuses to leave the classroom, this is considered student misconduct and will be reported to the Dean of Students using the Student Misconduct Incident Report Form. In these cases, the student may be subject to disciplinary action as described in the Student Disciplinary Policy.

I have concerns about my classroom or workspace. Reach out to the Environmental Health and Safety Office by email, or report anonymously online.

If someone in my class tests positive, I’ll just move to online instruction to be on the safe side. Having a COVID-positive individual in class does not indicate that an instructor needs to change the mode of instruction, as Contact Tracing will reach out to those determined to be exposed and monitor them. Contact Tracing, in conjunction with Dr. Susan Bleasdale and other infectious disease experts, will evaluate situations where it appears there may have been a larger-scale, high-risk exposure in the classroom to determine whether or not it is advisable for the class to change its mode of instruction. In those situations, it may be recommended that a class move to remote learning for a short time while the entire class undergoes testing and symptom monitoring. However, at this time there has not been a need to move any classrooms to remote learning due to transmission among class members.

Does my student need to provide a note from contact tracing verifying their need to stay home and quarantine/isolate? Contact Tracing does not provide verification that students need to be absent from class.