CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign will begin modified in-person instruction Monday with detailed plans to address the COVID-19 pandemic impact, including an expected initial increase in positive cases through the next several weeks.
The university has performed more than 60,000 tests on faculty members, staff and students since the implementation in July of an innovative saliva-based COVID-19 test. During that span, the positivity rate dropped from about 1.5% to below 0.2%. This week, as individuals return to campus, the positivity rate varied between 0.3% and 0.5% – several times lower than the corresponding positivity rate for the Restore Illinois region for this part of the state and at least 10 times below the levels recommended by the World Health Organization.
Data models developed by Illinois faculty members forecast a few hundred new COVID-19 cases as people return to the campus over the first few weeks of the semester, with cases dropping off after that and a low daily positivity rate throughout. The actual results of the current week are very close to these predictions.
The university shared its models with state and local health officials, local city leaders and community hospital administrators, who have used the data in their own planning and preparations for these first weeks of the semester.
The university’s COVID-19 response plan includes:
- An innovative saliva-based COVID-19 test, developed on the Urbana campus and now operating under a Bridging FDA Emergency Use Authorization.
- A twice-weekly on-campus COVID-19 testing program. (On-campus tests processed at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign now account for about 1-2% of the total daily COVID-19 tests conducted in the U.S.)
- The Safer Illinois app, developed at the university to support on-campus safety and testing protocols.
- Close collaboration with local governments, public health officials and businesses.
Chancellor Robert Jones
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
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“What will determine if we stay together in-person is whether we all can make the personal choices and exercise the very best judgement in these critical early days,” Chancellor Robert Jones said in a message to the campus community. “Our testing can detect the virus quickly. But the only way we can prevent it from spreading in the first place is by wearing face coverings, washing our hands, practicing social distancing and avoiding crowds and situations that we know put many people at risk of exposure.
“These next 10 or 15 days will define us.”
Photos and video of the saliva-based COVID-19 testing process in this Box folder are approved for news media use, with photo/video credit as noted.