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Public Health Precautions for Return to Campus

August 26, 2021

To: Members of the University Community
From: Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost, and Katie Callow-Wright, Executive Vice President of the University and Chief of Staff in the Office of the President

We look forward to welcoming the University of Chicago community back to campus this academic year with the added protection of widespread vaccination against COVID-19, and a host of other safety precautions. Last year we came together and succeeded in greatly limiting the spread of the virus on campus. With everyone’s continued vigilance and compliance with the public health precautions described in this message, we are able to safely resume on-campus activities.

We continue to benefit from the guidance of medical experts at the University of Chicago Medicine as well as local and federal public health agencies. Recent pandemic developments such as the spread of the Delta variant have prompted changes in practice such as reinstatement of masking requirements in University facilities. This is in addition to the University’s COVID-19 vaccine-related requirements for the community, and other steps in accordance with requirements being implemented by the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago.

If you have questions about the information provided below, please email coronavirusinfo@uchicago.edu. The University will continue to provide additional information from medical experts about the state of the pandemic and our precautions throughout the academic year.

Vaccination

The University has enacted COVID-19 vaccination expectations for all students and employees except those with authorized exemptions. Most of the University community has already provided proof of vaccination. Vaccination greatly reduces the chances of contracting COVID-19 or developing serious illness, and it is a crucial part of our plans for a full resumption of in-person activities. On August 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is widely available in the U.S.

Employees were expected to upload proof of vaccination to the online registry by August 13; the deadline for students who have not yet begun on-campus activities is September 1. Please register today if you have not already done so. To date, 83% of employees and 84% of students have uploaded proof of vaccination. In addition, two percent of students have received an authorized exemption and will be subject to mandatory weekly testing. Chicago-area employees without patient-facing duties who have not uploaded proof of vaccination will also be subject to mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing. We will share updated figures in the coming weeks as employees and students continue to provide proof of vaccination or get vaccinated upon arrival to campus.

Attestation

The University requires all students, faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, and staff to complete a new COVID-19 health requirements attestation.  The annual attestation must be completed by September 27, 2021, the start of the Autumn Quarter. Some professional schools may require an earlier completion date, and will communicate accordingly. (There is no longer a COVID-19 training requirement.)

Masking

The University is continuing the masking requirements that were announced on August 1.

  • Classrooms: Students and instructors must wear masks in classrooms. A fully vaccinated instructor or presenter may choose to lower their mask temporarily while actively speaking, if they must do so to be heard or understood. Generally, however, masks should remain on indoors.
  • Offices: Everyone should wear masks in University buildings. Individuals may remove face coverings in private rooms or offices if they are alone and the door is closed.
  • Dining: A fully vaccinated individual may remove their face coverings to eat or drink. An unvaccinated individual may remove their face coverings to eat or drink if they maintain six feet of social distance from others.

Residence Halls/ Dining Commons

Residence halls on campus will operate at close to normal capacity this academic year. Dining commons on campus will be open only to students who have purchased meal plans; there will be no walk-in meal purchases. After residence hall move-in, visitation will be limited to other students in residence halls.

Housing & Residence Life (HRL) will be implementing COVID-19 health measures for the academic year, including arrival testing, housing arrangements with consideration for vaccination status, and masking in common areas. Housing & Residence Life shared detailed guidance to those living in residence halls.

In-Person Instruction and Office Work

The University will fully resume in-person instruction and other on-campus activities for the start of the quarter. Deans and Officers are responsible for the resumption of in-person work for staff in their areas to support the University’s education and research missions.

Self-Monitoring and What to do if Exposed

Anyone coming to campus is expected to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 daily and stay home if they are experiencing symptoms.  Individuals should get tested if they experience symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. The University’s required protocols for people who have been exposed to COVID-19 have been updated to reflect CDC guidance for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. According to the protocol, any University community member who has a confirmed case, symptoms, or exposure must promptly self-report at C19HealthReport@uchicago.edu and cooperate with the Contact Tracing Team.

  • Quarantine/ Isolation: The University will follow the CDC guidelines for quarantine and isolation that were updated this summer. For example, vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine after exposure to a known or suspected case of COVID-19 if they do not have symptoms, but they must be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and wear a mask indoors for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result; a negative result 3-5 days after exposure satisfies this requirement. Always stay home if you feel sick; those who test negative should still stay away from classes or work if they have symptoms that are not typical for them. Isolation protocols remain the same for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19. The University maintains isolation housing that is available for students living on campus. Students living off-campus should quarantine at home.

COVID-19 Testing

Testing for COVID-19 is required for unvaccinated individuals.

  • Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program: Anyone who is not vaccinated must take part in weekly COVID-19 testing. The testing program will begin in September.
  • Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program: Weekly COVID-19 testing will be available to fully vaccinated individuals on a voluntary basis. Details on enrollment will be available in September.
  • Symptomatic Testing Program (including people exposed to COVID-19): Symptomatic testing will be administered through the University of Chicago Medical Center for employees or UChicago Student Wellness for students. Mandatory and Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program participants should NOT attend their regularly scheduled testing appointment if they have been symptomatic or exposed.

Arriving on Campus

All members of the community are required to abide by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance for domestic travel and CDC guidance for international travel. Please review current expectations for travel before departure so that you are prepared to meet requirements before arriving in Chicago.

  • Domestic Arrivals: Currently, unvaccinated individuals traveling from a state designated Orange by CDPH must obtain a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 72 hours prior to arrival or self-quarantine for a 10-day period upon arrival or until they receive a negative COVID-19 test.
  • International Arrivals: Per the CDC, currently all air passengers arriving in the United States are required to test negative no more than 72 hours before travel by air to the United States. Additionally,
    • Vaccinated individuals must get tested 3-5 days after travel.
    • Unvaccinated individuals must be tested 3-5 days after travel and stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days, or stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days without receiving a test.

Note, unvaccinated students living on campus who are arriving from domestic locations will be subject to separate guidance for residential housing. The Office of Housing & Residence Life communicated more details to these students.

Cleaning/Ventilation

Good building ventilation helps reduce the risk of exposure and reduce the spread of the disease.  Facilities Services personnel have assessed ventilation in all classrooms scheduled for use in Autumn Quarter. Each classroom and convening space exceeds CDC and CDPH recommendations for ventilation. Occupancy and duration limits have been placed on those spaces without mechanical ventilation consistent with their measured natural ventilation rates. All spaces on campus that do not exceed these higher ventilation standards have been limited to a single occupant or taken out of service for the academic quarter.

Campus janitorial staff will clean classrooms and convening spaces each night. Based on updated CDC guidance, self-service classroom cleaning supplies will no longer be used for cleaning individual seating areas before and after use.

Visitors, Vendors, and Convening

Visitors and vendors may come to campus if invited to do so by a faculty member, other academic appointee, postdoctoral researcher, staff member, student, division or unit, or authorized affiliate of the University. Hosts are responsible for communicating the University’s visitor and vendor guidelines in advance of their arrival. In general, vaccinated individuals can take part in the full range of gatherings and activities on campus, so long as they wear a face covering over the nose and mouth indoors; unvaccinated individuals may participate where accommodation for social distancing can be reasonably provided. Please consult the latest guidance for convening.

Building Access

The University has increased access to facilities on the Hyde Park campus through a phased approach, with access varying by building to be more closely aligned with pre-pandemic schedules of operation. Most buildings will continue to require a UChicago ID card to gain access. Students should have access to the buildings in which they reside, dine, exercise, take classes, and study.  Employees will regain broader access to facilities as per pre-pandemic practices.  Visitors and the general public will have access to select buildings and schedules for non-residential dining, exhibitions, and events without a UChicago ID. For additional details, please visit the UChicago Forward website.

University-supported Travel

For University-supported travel to countries with U.S. State Department Travel Advisory Level 3 or Level 4, deans, officers, head of administrative units, or their designees are still responsible for assessing and approving travel requests from people in their area. Travel to these countries will also require approval from the Pandemic Travel Review Committee. Please refer to the University’s travel policy for further details.

Thank you for your attention to these important details as we work together toward a safe and healthy Autumn Quarter.

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