Many considerations go into a college choice: Does this school have the major I want? Can I afford it? Do I like its location? What about size? Unfortunately, COVID-19 has added one more question to an already overwhelming list: Will I feel comfortable with the pandemic-related safety measures put into place there?
We realize that everyone’s comfort level varies right now. We can’t tell you how safe you’re going to feel on any campus, nor should we. But, to help you make a more informed decision, we can share everything the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is currently doing to protect its students. And, spoiler alert: We’re doing a whole lot.
1. All students are tested twice weekly.
First and foremost, our safety measures center around testing. Over the summer, brilliant minds across multiple UIUC disciplines—including chemists, epidemiologists, data scientists, and veterinary virologists—developed their own groundbreaking, non-invasive COVID-19 test. The test has since been validated, with the hope of expanding it statewide and beyond.
The test requires a simple saliva sample, allowing UIUC to test upwards of 15,000 people a day. This is a really big deal, and it makes our testing program one of, if not the most, robust in all of higher education. (It also accounts for 1 to 3% of daily national COVID tests.) All students, faculty, and staff participating in any on-campus activities are required to participate. It’s free and convenient, with multiple testing locations across campus and results provided in 48 hours or less.
As a student, you’ll be asked to get tested twice a week, and you can manage your results directly in our Safer Illinois app. Also developed by the university, this app shows your campus building status (more on that later), notifies you of possible exposures, connects you with healthcare professionals, and more.
2. All affected students must isolate or quarantine.
One thing we’ve all learned, thanks to the pandemic? The difference between “isolate” and “quarantine.” At UIUC, when someone tests positive for COVID-19, they’re required to isolate. When someone has been exposed to COVID-19, they’re required to quarantine. Both of these protocols are key to maintaining the integrity of our testing program and, in turn, the safety of our campus community.
3. Building access is limited.
Students, faculty, and staff aren’t allowed to enter any university facilities until they’ve been tested on campus and receive a negative result. To retain access, they must then continue to participate in our testing program. If they stop testing or receive a positive result, their access will be denied—another reason why spitting in that test tube twice a week is so important!
In buildings where in-person classes are held, students, faculty, and staff will be asked to show their status before they enter, either through their Safer Illinois app or what we call a “boarding pass.” You can read more about our building access requirements on our website.
4. Face coverings are required.
At this point, face coverings are pretty much a gimmie. Bottom line: Everyone must wear one in all public spaces on campus, including outdoors when they can’t maintain social distancing of six feet. In the classroom, students are required to wear their masks and practice social distancing the entire time.
5. We’re providing wellness support.
When students arrived on campus, they received free PPE, which stands for “personal protective equipment.” This kit included:
- UIUC-branded face coverings
- Hand sanitizer
- A digital thermometer
- A clean key
Additional wellness support is provided through our COVID Wellness Answer Center, which community members can contact with any questions regarding testing. Wellness Ambassadors can also be found across campus to answer questions and provide health resources, and specially trained Wellness Support Advocates will be the ones checking building entry status and providing disposable face coverings to those who need them.
6. More online classes are being offered than ever before.
Throughout the fall 2020 semester, UIUC is holding a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online classes. Many students are taking most, if not all, of their courses online. We have some good news for you there, too: UIUC has been a pioneer in online education for years, so we know what we’re doing. The experience may not look the same (and for that, we’re truly sorry), but we can assure you that the quality of learning remains top-notch.
7. We’re focused on your mental health, too.
At UIUC, COVID-19 safety measures extend beyond the physical. With so many added stressors right now, it’s safe to say that everyone could use some extra support. Our Counseling Center has taken additional measures to assist our students during this time, including online counseling, workshops, and programming. In addition, their website offers links to national resources and helpful articles available to anyone (including you if you need them).
We hope this reassures you that UIUC is doing everything we can to maximize the health and safety of our campus community during the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn even more, visit our COVID-19 website. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this: The legacy of UIUC is built on its power to innovate. Although we’ve made great strides so far, our efforts won’t stop here.