Faculty, staff and students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who will regularly be on campus this fall must get tested for COVID-19 twice a week, according to guidance released Monday morning by the university. Those who come to campus occasionally also have to be tested and show test results dated four days or less from their planned visit to campus.
“We are a university that is privileged to be home to some of the world’s leading minds on COVID-19 safety, testing and procedures,” Chancellor Robert Jones in an email to faculty and students. “If we all do our part, we believe we have the ability to achieve our missions.”
A group of university professors developed a saliva test to test for the novel coronavirus throughout the fall semester. So far, they’ve set up 12 testing sites across campus where university community members can get tested free of charge. They’re hoping to conduct 10,000 tests per day throughout the semester. Mandatory testing will start Aug. 10 for faculty and staff and Aug. 16 for students.
The university still plans to hold in-person classes this fall. Classes will start Aug. 24 for the fall semester and in-person instruction will end early, on Nov. 20. After that, students will be remote only. Meanwhile, schools across the region and state are reconsidering reopening plans as COVID-19 cases spike. Loyola University Chicago already shifted most classes online this fall and, last week, DePaul said it is reevaluating its in-person course schedule. They expect to share more news before Aug. 12.
On Friday, Northwestern University announced it will require all students living on campus and in the Evanston area to shelter in place for two weeks, between Sept. 6 and Sept 20, before in-person classes begin. Students will limit social interactions and the first three days of classes will be delivered remotely. After that, the fall semester will be a mix of in-person and hybrid classes. Classes begin Sept. 16.
Robin Kaler, associate vice chancellor for public affairs at Urbana-Champaign, said computer scientists used data modeling to determine the optimal number of times people should get tested that would reduce spread.
“By doing it every four days at the maximum you can make sure you can nip any kind of spike in the bud,” Kaler said. It will also help easy contact tracing efforts. The university is holding a briefing on Thursday with two of the scientists about their data modeling.
UIUC is working with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District to ramp up contact tracing efforts that are related to university faculty, staff and students. The university is also hiring “wellness ambassadors” who will encourage and enforce COVID-19 guidelines. As of last week, a university spokesperson said they had 190 applicants. The university says it’s planning to hire 30 to 35 students who will pay $10 per hour. Ambassadors will start the first day of classes.
Kaler said university leaders hope all of these policies make it clear that they are taking safety seriously this fall.
“You either participate or you stay away,” Kaler said. “It is a privilege to get to do things face-to- face,” she said.