Working Together to Protect our Community and Advance our Academic Mission

Weekly COVID-19 Updates

October 2, 2020 Update

Dear Members of UChicago Community, 

Welcome to the first edition of the UChicago Forward Weekly COVID-19 Update. This message will inform the University community about the latest data and developments relevant to COVID-19 on our campus, and help reinforce public health precautions and other actions that our community is taking in response to the pandemic. For more information, please visit the UChicago Forward website.

Latest Data

All students living in on-campus housing have now moved in and begun weekly testing as part of the University’s Mandatory Surveillance Testing Program, and the Voluntary Surveillance Testing Program began this week. From September 20 through October 1 the University has processed 4,979 tests as part of these programs, with 9 positive results, for an overall positivity rate of 0.18%. All students who tested positive have been notified and residential students have been relocated to University isolation housing, with support from staff in UChicago Student Wellness and Housing and Residence Life.

In all, including others in the University community who have tested positive, there have been 14 COVID-19 cases in the last week, with 37 close contacts identified and notified by our Contact Tracing Team. These numbers include positive results identified through the surveillance testing programs and others who were tested because of symptoms or because they were recently in close contact with someone who tested positive. It also includes a number of people who have not been on campus or are working from home.

We must remain vigilant in following safety protocols, and not become complacent regardless of the number of cases. The University anticipated and was prepared for some new cases as some students tested positive upon arrival, which is why we instituted a 10-day stay-at-home directive for everyone in campus housing at the start of the quarter. Anyone arriving from a state on the City of Chicago’s Travel Quarantine List is required to complete a 14-day quarantine, leaving their housing only for medical visits. The UChicago Forward site has additional information on isolation and quarantine.


Today the University launched an expanded version of our COVID-19 Dashboard, which provides a range of data on the University’s COVID-19 surveillance testing program, updates on students in isolation, and the overall number of cases and close contacts. The Dashboard is updated on a daily and weekly basis.

Corrective Action

Everyone returning to campus must uphold the required training and attestation, as summarized in the UChicago Health Pact. While we do not want to be punitive in enforcing these requirements, some behavior requires swift action to help protect the health and safety of our community. This week, two students were removed from on-campus housing for the rest of Autumn Quarter for violations of University and City of Chicago public health requirements, and other students who have been in large groups outdoors while violating public health requirements have received final warnings.

Most members of the University community have been upholding public health requirements. This is essential for us to have a successful Autumn Quarter and we thank you for your efforts in this regard.

Upholding Public Health Requirements

UCAIR is the University anonymous reporting system that can be used to report concerns about compliance with COVID-19 health requirements. Since September 20, UCAIR has received 211 reports concerning COVID-19 issues; the most common problems reported were failure to observe six feet of social distancing, and failure to wear face coverings appropriately. Concerns have also been reported through UCAIR about gatherings of students in off-campus venues.

For people who are not currently under quarantine, being outside can be a good way to socialize safely. But it’s important to keep at least six feet from others, wear face coverings except when eating and drinking, and follow other public health requirements. The University has placed reminders about these requirements in a number of outside areas.

Cases Involving Harris School Students

The University’s Contact Tracing Team and colleagues at UChicago Medicine identified a small cluster of COVID-19 cases this week involving students at the Harris School of Public Policy. Although the interactions among students were all off-campus, and students were taking some COVID-19 precautions, the situation serves as a reminder to employ all of the practices we have identified to prevent the spread of the virus, which are described in the Health Pact. It also highlights the importance of self-quarantine and testing for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19.  Anyone with a confirmed COVID-19 case, symptoms or exposure should promptly self-report to, even if you have not been on campus.

Weekly Reminder

Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others whenever possible. Visit the UChicago Health Pact.


As we begin the campus testing programs, the new UChicago Contact Tracing Team has quickly determined whether students with positive test results had any close contacts who also needed to be tested. Please remember that a contact tracer’s job is critical to public health and that their work is in support of the entire University community; it is not meant to cast blame or lead to disciplinary action.  Cooperation with the process is critical to preventing spread of the virus. Thank you to the team, and to everyone who has helped them do their vital work.

Did You Know?

A sneeze can travel up to 65 mph. Wear a face covering.

October 9, 2020 Update

Dear Members of UChicago Community,

In this edition of the UChicago Forward Weekly COVID-19 Update, you can find updates on the latest COVID-19 data, a new online tool for checking symptoms, information on new tent spaces, and other actions that our community is taking in response to the pandemic.

You can find comprehensive information on the UChicago Forward website.

Latest Data

Overall Surveillance Testing Data: From September 20 to October 8, the University has processed 9,965 tests as part of the Mandatory and Voluntary Surveillance programs, with 26 positive results, for an overall positivity rate of 0.26%.

Taking into account reports received from all members of the University community – including those who have not been on campus or are working from home – there have been 33 COVID-19 cases in the last week, with 32 close contacts identified and notified by our Contract Tracing Team. Of the new cases identified in the last week, 26 are students, and 7 are staff, faculty, or other employees of the University. As of today, 6 students are in on-campus isolation housing, with 21 students isolating off-campus. The UChicago Forward site has additional information on isolation for people who test positive for COVID-19.


*COVID-19 Positive Cases at UChicago – Data from 10/1/20-10/7/20

The University’s COVID-19 Dashboard – updated on a daily and weekly basis – has been updated to provide the ability to sort testing data.

First Week of In-Person Classes

Monday, October 5, marked the start of in-person instruction in the College and many graduate programs, with seating layouts, cleaning protocols, ventilation, and other operational specifications adjusted according to public health guidelines. Compliance with safety protocols has been good, based on feedback from instructors and from monitors who are spot-checking buildings and classrooms. Students need to be aware that they should wipe down their seat and desk both before and after use. Updated signage on this point will be deployed soon.           

Voluntary COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Program

Registration to enroll in the Voluntary COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Program will re-open on Monday, October 12, and will be available until 5 p.m. on Thursday, October 15, for those not already part of the University’s surveillance testing programs. Emails starting Monday will provide information on how to register. We encourage anyone in the University community who might be on campus during Autumn Quarter and is not already enrolled to register for this weekly testing program.

Symptom Checker

The UChicago C19 Symptom Checker is a new online tool designed to help you with your daily symptom check  and risk factors to see if your symptoms and risk factors indicate potential COVID-19 infection. The Checker is based on clinical best practices and CDC guidelines, and takes into account illness severity and risk factors such as age and pre-existing conditions. Anyone who finds they have symptoms should not go to their University destination and should consult their healthcare provider and inform their supervisor or academic leader. Students should call UChicago Student Wellness at 773.834.WELL. Others may call the UChicago Medicine COVID-19 triage hotline for screening, at 773.702.2800. 

All members of the University community are strongly encouraged to visit the site and familiarize themselves with the tool. Setting a daily reminder for yourself each morning is a good way to build the habit of using the Symptom Checker. It’s easy to use and entirely confidential.

City of Chicago Emergency Travel Order

The City of Chicago is expected to add Indiana to its quarantine list next week due to rising COVID-19 activity. If that happens:

  • UChicago students, faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, and staff who live in Indiana will be able to travel to and from the University for education, research, and work, and will be expected to limit their activities to those functions while in Chicago. The same approach already applies to people who live in Wisconsin and travel to and from the University for those purposes.

Additional information will be provided next week if and when Indiana is added to the quarantine list. Chicago’s list of quarantine states is updated each Tuesday, and changes go into effect on Friday. Check the city’s Emergency Travel Order web page for an updated list of affected states.

Upholding Public Health Requirements

As a reminder, UCAIR is the University’s anonymous reporting system that can be used to report concerns about compliance with COVID-19 health requirements. UCAIR received 79 reports this week concerning COVID-19 issues, for a total of 247 reports since September 20. The most common problems reported this week involved universal face coverings and social distancing.

For ideas about how students can socialize while upholding health and safety requirements, please refer to our Guidelines for Safe Socializing.

Off-Campus Cases

In the last week, our Contact Tracing Team and epidemiology specialists at UChicago Medicine identified five cases involving College students living together in one house off campus. As a result, all residents of the house have been directed to quarantine. Cooperation with all contact tracing efforts is critical in such cases to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Available Spaces

The University is completing installation of heated tents available in locations across campus. These tents will be used as alternative spaces for instruction, for limited outdoor seating for students to use for study space and dining, and for approved extracurricular convenings. You can find more information on how to reserve and use the tents on UChicago Forward.

The Library has begun welcoming limited numbers of faculty, students and staff back to library spaces. Registration is required for seating. Visit the Library website for more information.

If you have been exposed to or test positive for COVID-19, promptly report to, even if you have not been on campus.