UIS announces 10 new on-campus cases of COVID-19

click to enlarge Staff and students who live and work on campus at UIS must get tested for COVID-19 weekly, using a U of I developed saliva test. - FACEBOOK.COM/UIS.EDU
Staff and students who live and work on campus at UIS must get tested for COVID-19 weekly, using a U of I developed saliva test.

The University of Illinois Springfield has confirmed 10 new on-campus COVID-19 cases and two off-campus cases within the past week. The university began its on-campus testing program on Aug. 11. Since late June, UIS is aware of 22 total confirmed cases: 15-on campus, and seven off-campus, according to the university’s website.

During a Thursday afternoon weekly Zoom briefing, UIS interim chancellor Karen Whitney said, “This uptick is definitely a reflection of our on-campus testing program and exactly why we’ve implemented it.” The saliva test, developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, produces rapid results and is required weekly for students and staff who study, live or work on-campus.

UIS will begin publicizing positivity rates on its website next week according to a spokesperson. The positivity rate reflects the percentage of positive tests out of the total tests performed. "Even with the numbers I've just announced, this is still less than a 1% positivity rate. Early detection of COVID-positive individuals helps stop the spread of the illness," Whitney said during the briefing.

As students return to college campuses across the nation, many schools are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill decided to transition to online-only classes, effective yesterday, after the campus positivity rate rose from 2.8% to 13.6% last week, according to the UNC student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel.

In Illinois, an outbreak is being monitored at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, according to The Pantagraph. An article from yesterday includes a university statement, which read in part: “We are actively monitoring and responding to a COVID-19 outbreak among a group of Illinois Wesleyan University students, all residing in non-University housing. At this time, 10 individuals have tested positive after initially testing negative upon arrival this fall. Some test-positive students have reported COVID-19 symptoms, while many are asymptomatic.”

And at Illinois State University in Bloomington, university officials said on Wednesday that more than 50 students had tested positive for COVID-19. That's according to a story from public radio station WGLT which read, "Those cases include seven students who were tested on-campus between Aug. 1 and Monday, plus 31 student-athletes who tested positive in the past week."

Classes at UIS begin on Aug. 24. Whitney said COVID-19 positive cases will be dealt with on an individual basis. Quarantine space will be provided as an option for those living on campus who test positive.

“Many people ask what it would take to shut down the university. I can tell you, we're not shutting down,” Whitney said during Thursday’s Zoom briefing. “We may take pauses in our on-ground activities. We may mitigate things, cleaning of spaces. We may stop parts of our operation for a while, but it will be based on the evidence ... with public safety at the core,” said Whitney. She said mitigation strategies may include closing certain parts of campus temporarily.

“UIS is not closing unless the governor or the system head directs me to ... the question gets into how will we operate,” Whitney told Illinois Times in an Aug. 24 interview.  Whitney said she believes the university will be in “full operation all year” — but pauses in “all or part of our operations” could become necessary based on infection rates. She said she does not anticipate ending the semester prematurely.

“I'll be surprised if I don't report even more cases next week. I'm saying this because I don't want you to be surprised. ... We've anticipated this. We have plans. And the leadership is working very closely together,” Whitney said during the Zoom briefing.

Contact Rachel Otwell at rotwell@illinoistimes.com.
This article was updated with statements made during an Aug. 24 interview between Interim Chancellor Whitney and Illinois Times.

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