It’s about to get especially quiet on college campuses around Illinois.
In response to the surge in COVID-19 cases as Thanksgiving break approaches, many schools are moving their few remaining in-person classes online. They’ve also asked those who travel for the holiday not to return.
The University of Illinois at Chicago is switching its hybrid model of in-person and online classes to online only after the holiday. DePaul University, which has held most of its classes online, moved remaining in-person classes to virtual learning this week. Similarly, Loyola University Chicago will switch its “1 to 2%” of in-person classes to online after the Thanksgiving break, according to spokeswoman Anna Shymanski. Columbia College will also transition all classes to remote learning after the holiday, with the exception of a few courses.
When it comes to travel, the University of Chicago, currently a hybrid model, has told students who choose to leave for Thanksgiving that they will not be allowed to return to on-campus housing and must complete the remainder of the quarter remotely. According to university spokesman Gerald McSwiggan, the policy has been in place since the beginning of the school year.
It’s the latest step for schools that have invested months of planning trying to stay ahead of the coronavirus. Most schools plan to welcome students back on campus for some in-person classes after winter break.
Northwestern University is advising students to “limit personal travel to areas across the country where COVID-19 is particularly prevalent,” according to guidance on the school’s website. Students traveling to pandemic hotspots are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days following travel before returning to campus.
Spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie said most students who go home later this month are expected to take their exams and finish the term from home. However, undergraduate residence halls will remain open until Dec. 9, Ritchie said. The university is also encouraging students to book appointments for COVID-19 tests three days before going out of town to ensure they have results before traveling.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told students earlier this month that they should not return to campus until January if they leave the Champaign-Urbana area for fall break, Nov. 21-29.
“We aren’t mandating, just trying to make clear that we think it’s best not to travel,” wrote U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler in an email to WBEZ.
Should a student travel outside the area and return after fall break, they are expected to test for COVID-19 upon their return and get tested every other day until the end of the fall semester. Kaler said this additional test requirement is due to the pandemic’s surge across the country. “Since we won’t have as many people on campus, we’ll have the capacity to test all students who are here more often,” Kaler wrote.
U of I junior Sydni Goodrum-Davis said she will travel to her family’s home in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood for a few days for Thanksgiving but will return to Champaign the week after for her job and also to avoid putting her multigenerational family in Chicago at risk.
She adds that with COVID-19 cases rising, she understands the university’s policy on holiday travel.
“We get flooded with emails about [COVID-19], which I guess is necessary,” Goodrum-Davis said. “The cases have been going up, and I feel like [U of I is] just trying to take whatever necessary precautions they need to take.”
She plans to get tested every other day upon her return to campus, per the school’s policy for students who return after fall break. She said she has been getting tested “pretty close to every other day… so it’s not a big deal. As long as I’m keeping myself safe and other people safe, I don’t mind.”
Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk and WBEZ’s Education desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.