Coronavirus Updates

Email from Provost Ka Yee C. Lee  (Mar. 10, 2020)

From: Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost, and Kenneth S. Polonsky, Executive Vice President of the University for Biology and Medicine
Subject: Further Steps Related to Coronavirus

We are writing to inform you of additional precautionary steps the University is taking in light of continued escalation in cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the U.S. and abroad, and further guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Chicago Department of Public Health to reduce the spread of the disease.

Incidents of COVID-19 in Illinois remain limited, with no confirmed cases on our Hyde Park campus. But our area is likely to see more cases, and on Monday the state issued a disaster proclamation to assist with the response. While reliable data on the spread of the virus is not yet available, we are monitoring the data as they emerge and will make further decisions informed by data and the evolving guidance from public health authorities. Out of an abundance of caution we are enacting new travel suspensions and measures to encourage ‘social distancing’ and thereby reduce contacts that could aid the spread of the virus. These precautionary steps are intended to support the health and wellness of the University community and to minimize disruption of research and education:

  • The University is suspending all faculty-led Study Abroad programs for Spring Quarter 2020. We will work on a case-by-case basis with College students who are currently abroad on direct enrollment programs. Students living in College residence halls may remain in their current room assignments and will be supported in pre-registration for Spring Quarter classes. Our actions take into account the latest CDC guidance for international travel and study abroad programs, issued on Monday.
  • The University is suspending all nonessential international and domestic University travel, effective immediately through April 15. Essential travel is defined as supporting activities that are absolutely necessary, cannot be rescheduled, and must be done in person; individuals may petition the appropriate deans or officers regarding travel. While this step and the suspension of Study Abroad is disappointing, please know that the University remains deeply committed to international and domestic education and research, and we look forward to resuming normal activities when conditions allow.
  • We are suspending University-sponsored events and gatherings of more than 100 people effective immediately through April 15. At this time some scheduled performances in the arts and athletic events may be held with limitations on audience; please check ahead with the presenting organization. Any events that are moving forward should take into account the CDC’s guidance for event planners. Events with fewer than 100 attendees, and those involving vulnerable populations, should be approached with care based on the changing situation. Classes are not included in this guidance and will continue as scheduled, with the exception of courses affected by travel restrictions.
  • In a similar vein, we are asking schools, divisions, and departments to consider postponing on-campus visits to a later date when there may be lower risk.
  • If you must travel over the spring break period, please note that evolving public health measures could make it difficult to return to campus in a timely way. We advise travelers to bring along any items that you may need if your return to campus is delayed. As usual, the University will provide spring break housing for undergraduates currently in College residence halls who need to remain on campus over break.

We know some of these changes will be difficult, and that uncertainty about the spread of COVID-19 is contributing to concerns. But be assured that the University is refining preparations for a range of contingencies. The steps we are taking are temporary and well within our ability to achieve by working together.

One question that has arisen from recent developments at other universities is whether our University is moving to online classes or telework. Our current situation does not call for such measures, though we are continually monitoring developments and guidance from public health authorities. Should it become necessary, the University has access to virtual platforms that can accommodate many needs, including online classes, virtual events, and telework. We will be in touch with schools, divisions, faculty, and staff managers with further information on related preparations.

Please note that anyone who has returned from a CDC Level 2 or Level 3 country in the past 14 days and going forward is strongly advised to fill out this simple form with information about their trip.

Further health information is available from UChicago Medicine, CDPH, WHO, and the CDC. Please contact coronavirusinfo@uchicago.edu if you need guidance, resources, or assistance.