Many wondered what would happen with COVID-19 positivity rates when students, faculty and staff returned to the University of Illinois Chicago campus for the first time in nearly 18 months for the fall semester.
Since Aug. 15, there have been 47,618 COVID-19 saliva tests administered on campus. Of those tests, 283 have been positive, indicating a 0.59% campus saliva testing positivity rate. There have been 535 total positive cases overall.
Natalia Lopez-Yanez, director of UIC’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing and Epidemiology Program, has worked with others to establish a contact tracing program since Aug. 31, 2020. The team consists of 41 contact tracers and two supervisors.
“They have identified gaps in mitigation procedures through their comprehensive investigations,” Lopez-Yanez said. “[They] have provided feedback to campus stakeholders, such as the Environmental Health and Safety Office to prevent the further spread of COVID on campus and built an entire data collection and reporting system that is highly efficient.”
UIC established various procedures and policies to continue to track and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Policies and procedures include operating a COVID-19 Tracking Data Dashboard, a COVID-19 surveillance program and contact tracing.
The UIC COVID-19 Tracking Data Dashboard houses various statistics regarding testing for the coronavirus on campus. Metrics tracked include positive cases by students and employees, negative tests, contact tracing and isolation and quarantine capacity.
The latest data is added to the dashboard on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, there is a delay in data being updated and may be inaccurate some days due to the delay.
Other universities in the Chicago area have seen similar COVID-19 positivity rates as UIC over the past seven days. UIC has had a 0.62% positivity rate in the past seven days, while Northwestern University has had a 0.60% positivity rate and Loyola University has had a 0.68% positivity rate over the same time period.
Since the start of the academic year, University of Chicago has had the highest positivity rate per 1,000 students among other area universities, while DePaul University has had the lowest.
UIC launched a COVID-19 surveillance program at the beginning of the semester through which students are randomly selected to take an COVID-19 saliva test at UIC’s testing center in Student Center East.
Junior Hana Hasan received an email informing her that she had been randomly chosen to complete an on-campus COVID-19 saliva test as part of UIC’s new coronavirus surveillance program despite being fully vaccinated.
“I chose to go ahead with doing the test because I felt like even though I probably didn’t have COVID, I felt morally obligated and responsible to go and get a COVID test done,” Hasan said. “When I went to get the COVID test, I took it and then that same day I got an email telling me that the lab lost my sample so I didn’t take another one.”
On-campus testing takes place at Student Center East Tower room 713. The testing center is accessed through taking an elevator in the building to the seventh floor. Elevator capacity in the building is limited to four individuals at a time. Testing previously took place in the Student Center East Illinois Room, which provided more space for social distancing and entry by escalator.
Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to make appointments before arriving at the testing center. Students who have submitted documentation of full vaccination are not required to complete saliva testing twice weekly, while those with vaccination exemptions and partial vaccination status are. There is a 96.1% vaccination rate of employees and students.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, UIC also has a frequently asked questions page which clarifies campus policies regarding COVID-19. The Illinois Department of Public Health continues to provide guidance for living during the pandemic.