UIC contact tracing operational changes
Over the winter holiday season, the highly transmissible omicron variant contributed to increases in new cases and positivity rates that exceeded anything we had seen since the beginning of the pandemic. This surge in cases put significant strain on UIC’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing and Epidemiology Program.
Since the program launched, we have reached more than 95% of cases for a phone interview, often within one day of their COVID test. Over the past month, we reached approximately one-third of cases by phone, and our time to reach individuals increased four-fold. In order to accommodate the rapid increase in demand, we have implemented several operational changes, including a more email-driven communication system.
We are extremely heartened by the current trends on our campus and in the City of Chicago, where positivity, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are continuing to decline. In our program, we are also pleased that the proportion of cases who we reach for interview is steadily increasing.
Over the last several weeks, we have worked closely with campus leadership and infection prevention experts to adapt campus policies and isolation and quarantine guidance to the changing landscape of COVID-19 and to ensure our campus remains one of the safest places in Chicago.
We are excited to welcome our campus members back to in-person learning and activities but know many may be feeling anxious about these changes. With that in mind, we would like to remind you of the following layers of protection we have on our campus:
- Vaccination and boosting, if eligible, are required for all students and employees except for those who are exempt for medical and religious reasons.
- UIC is a highly vaccinated population relative to its surrounding community as over 94% of community members are vaccinated compared to about 67% of Chicago residents.
- All FDA-approved vaccines are extremely effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. The recent surge of cases attributed to the Omicron variant highlight the importance of vaccination and boosting.
- Mandatory saliva testing for anyone who is not fully vaccinated and for certain groups including campus housing residents, performing arts, and athletics.
- Required masking
- All individuals are required to wear a mask while indoors at UIC, regardless of vaccination status. The only exception is if you are alone in a private office.
- Masks are extremely effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Consider using a higher quality mask, such as a KN95, or double layering your masks to provide increased protection. All masks should completely cover your nose, mouth, and chin and fit snuggly against your face.
- Contact tracing
- Contact tracing will reach out to you if you test positive at UIC or if you are in close contact with someone infectious for COVID-19.
- You should use the Reporting Decision Tool to report off-campus positive test results, exposures to an individual with COVID-19, COVID-19 like symptoms, or out of state/country travel.
- Please also help UIC contact tracing by being aware of your surroundings: get to know the people near you in classes and at work so that if you ever do test positive, you are able to help us identify who you may have been close to.
- For questions about contact tracing procedures in the classroom, please visit our FAQs for students and faculty.
- For questions about contact tracing procedures in the workplace, please visit our FAQs for supervisors.
- Improved ventilation – UIC has worked to improve ventilation across campus to increase classroom safety.
Our fall semester data showed that our classrooms are safe environments, but please remember that these layers of protection only work if you do your part. We want to remind you to stay home if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild, and report to us for public health guidance.
For more information about contact tracing procedures in the classroom and workplace or other resources at UIC, please visit the resources page on our website.