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UIC, DePaul halt in-person classes, but other Illinois colleges take different tack as coronavirus cases spike

The University of Illinois at Chicago and DePaul University suspend in-person activities, but other schools maintain on-campus activities.

Southern Illinois University Chancellor Austin Lane, left, and student trustee Steven Gear, right, thank two freshmen students for wearing their masks in Morris Library on Sept. 1, 2020. This week Southern Illinois University joined the University of Chicago and the Universities of Illinois at Springfield and Urbana-Champaign in allowing in-person activities despite a COVID surge.
Southern Illinois University Chancellor Austin Lane (left) speaks with students on campus in September. This week SIU joined the University of Chicago and the Universities of Illinois at Springfield and Urbana-Champaign in allowing in-person activities despite a COVID surge.
AP

The meteoric rise in coronavirus cases has been met with different responses from Illinois colleges and universities.

This week the University of Illinois at Chicago and DePaul University chose to suspend in-person student activities, while the University of Chicago, Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the Universities of Illinois at Springfield and Urbana-Champaign will continue in-person activities under their individual protocols.

In an update shared by the University of Illinois at Chicago on Wednesday, the school announced that all in-person classes would be suspended by the end of this week and moved to online platforms until the end of the fall semester. The school had 135 employees and students test positive last week, according to its COVID-19 dashboard.

“Given our location and the continuous interactions with the community at large, we cannot completely mitigate these effects, as indicated by the most recent results of our surveillance testing,” Chancellor Michael Amiridis said in a statement. “And while our contact tracing efforts clearly demonstrate that there is no transmission in our classrooms or our labs, out of an abundance of caution, we must now implement stricter measures to protect the health and safety of our community members and curb the spread of this disease.”

DePaul cited Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s stay-at-home advisory as a factor in announcing that all face-to-face classes and exams will move online after the school had six positive cases last week, according to their COVID-19 dashboard.

Further south, the University of Chicago urged members of the school community to stay cautious but maintained that limited in-person activities would continue for the rest of the term. Last week the campus had 15 positive cases.

Last month, the university announced a plan to increase its number of in-person classes during the winter.

On Wednesday, officials from Southern Illinois University Carbondale announced that COVID-19 mitigations in Carbondale would not impact campus housing, office hours or in-person courses for the next two weeks. However, the school plans to finish the semester remotely after the Thanksgiving break, according to university Chancellor Austin Lane.

Last week SIU reported 37 cases.

After the University of Illinois at Springfield experienced its highest number of one-day positive cases from testing on Monday, the university issued a two-day pause on all in-person activities before reinstating all activities on Thursday. In-person instruction is planned to continue for the rest of the term.

Six positive test results were reported on Thursday after reopening the campus.

On Tuesday, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ordered faculty, staff and grad students to test twice weekly, ramping up its testing protocol which is already considered one of the most robust in the country. Since July, the school has administered nearly 800,000 COVID-19 tests.

Because of the testing system, the school plans to continue all in-person classes and activities for the rest of the term, but students who travel away from the Champaign-Urbana area over Thanksgiving are urged not to return to campus.

The school has had 315 positive cases in the last seven days.