UChicago Forward Reports 243 New Cases; Masking, Visitation Policies Relaxed

The email also reported 49 cases and a 1.56 percent positivity rate from surveillance testing, although residents of three residence halls could not get tested until Friday because of inclement weather during the week.


William Rainey Harper Memorial Library.

By Michael McClure

UChicago Forward reported 243 new cases of COVID-19 and 281 close contacts identified last week, according to an email sent to the University community on Friday, February 4. Twenty-six students are in on-campus isolation housing, with 48 isolating off campus.

Surveillance testing results from January 27 to February 1 reported 49 cases and a 1.56 percent positivity rate. Testing sites at Walker Museum and Stuart Hall were closed because of inclement weather from February 2–3, pushing the mandatory testing days for students living in Woodlawn Residential Commons, Max Palevsky Residential Commons, and International House to February 4. The results of these tests were not included in the UChicago Forward email’s reported totals.

For students who tested on Friday, the University’s COVID-19 testing team piloted a self-collection program wherein students picked up and dropped off the kits containing their saliva samples at designated stations in each residence hall. This method was introduced “to streamline processes and make the required resident testing more convenient,” according to an email sent Wednesday to students living on campus by Associate Vice President for Campus Life Richard Mason and Interim Executive Director of Housing & Residence Life (HRL) Heath Rossner. The pilot program “may be implemented further” if it succeeds.

The email also announced four changes to University policies effective upon the email’s release. One was that speakers and presenters may lower their masks “in order to be heard or understood” while speaking, reversing a policy announced December 20 by Provost Ka Yee Lee and Executive Vice President Katie Callow-Wright that required individuals to wear masks indoors at all times.

Other policy changes include the resumption of visitation between residence halls for on-campus students, previously suspended beginning January 1; revised guidance for non-academic meetings sponsored by the University; and the removal of a requirement for unvaccinated individuals to have University-affiliated international travel approved by the Pandemic Travel Risk Committee.

Per an email from HRL sent February 3, community kitchens in residence halls remain closed, with plans to reopen them by the end of the month, and food and drink may not be consumed in house lounges under the University's indoor masking requirement.

The UChicago Forward email also noted that Chicago’s seven-day case positivity rate declined to 4.0 percent, down from 6.8 percent last week and the high of 22.7 percent reported in the UChicago Forward update on January 7. For the fifth consecutive week, the City of Chicago has listed all U.S. states and four territories at the orange classification level of the Emergency Travel Advisory.