COVID-19 saliva testing update and final preparations for fall

Dear students, faculty and staff,

It’s been a busy week on campus as students began moving into residence halls and we finalize preparations for the start of the fall semester. While most of our classes will be online, we are following a hybrid model with some classes taught in person and our goal is to create the safest possible environment for those who will be on campus to start the fall semester.

We have established protocols to encourage physical distancing, determined isolation and quarantine areas for those in campus housing, developed education on mandatory face coverings, established processes for daily wellness screenings to identify those who are symptomatic with COVID-19, and expanded testing for those symptomatic individuals.

In addition to these critical measures, we have begun saliva-based COVID-19 testing for those that DO NOT have symptoms.  This additional tool can help us to identify asymptomatic individuals early and prevent further transmission to our campus family.

This week we began mandatory saliva-based COVID-19 testing for specific groups of students and employees. So far, we have tested nearly a thousand students and staff in campus housing, student-athletes and athletics staff, and certain students and faculty/staff in performing arts. Among those tested, 983 have tested negative and three have tested positive.

Beginning Monday, Aug. 24, we will have additional capacity to offer voluntary saliva-based testing for students, faculty and staff who wish to be tested at locations on the east and west sides of campus. This testing is free and I encourage you to take advantage of this important screening tool.  The process is most effective when you have regular testing. As a result, those tested are encouraged to be retested on a weekly basis.  A registration process to schedule your testing will be available soon. We will continue to update the campus as we increase our testing capacity in the coming weeks.

As we do more testing, we expect there will be COVID-19 positive cases in our campus community. We have implemented a contact tracing team based at the UIC School of Public Health that will be responsible for contacting positive individuals and counseling them on isolation, determining and notifying their close contacts on campus, and monitoring for health symptoms. The UIC contact tracing team will work closely with the Chicago Department of Public Health who will be responsible for notifying individuals outside of the UIC community.

Individuals who test positive must follow all campus protocols established for isolation at home or in campus housing as appropriate, and those who have been exposed must follow all campus protocols established for quarantine, in alignment with public health protocols.

Individuals who test negative should continue to wear a mask and practice physical distancing.  These are proven methods to protect you and our campus community.

Additionally, we will also launch a COVID-19 dashboard Aug. 25 to maintain transparency and support informed decision-making related to campus operations. The COVID-19 dashboard will be publicly available online to provide data from multiple sources including positive cases, cumulative saliva test results, availability of community protective equipment, and isolation and quarantine availability in campus housing.

We need everyone to do their part and wear a mask, wash hands/use sanitizer often, practice physical distancing, and do health checks every day you are on campus. By working together we can have a safe and successful semester!


Michael D. Amiridis

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