URBANA — The University of Illinois announced Monday that it will delay the start of in-person spring classes on its Urbana campus by one week.
Chancellor Robert Jones said in a mass email to faculty, staff and graduate students that the first week of classes next semester will be online starting Tuesday, Jan. 18.
U of I epidemiologist Rebecca Smith says that one-week buffer period will give students plenty of time to get tested twice before returning to in-person classes on Jan. 24.
“That one week of online classes is to allow the logistics of having students test twice at least three days apart after returning to town,” Smith said.
Campus officials are also requiring faculty, staff and graduate students to test negative twice for COVID upon returning to class in January. They are requesting that those two tests be completed before Jan. 15 to beat the rush of undergraduate students needing to test.
Jones said in his mass email that campus officials are still considering whether to require a COVID vaccine booster shot for the spring semester, but they “strongly recommend” that everyone eligible for a booster shot get one if they have not already done so.
COVID-19 cases on the Urbana campus have jumped along with the rest of Champaign County. There have been more than two thousand cases on campus this semester, including more than 300 in the last week.
The full text of Jones’ mass email is below.
Dear Faculty, Staff and Graduate Students,
Today I am sending this massmail message to all undergraduate students that shares information about Spring 2022 COVID-19 guidelines, which includes the announcement that the first week of the Spring 2022 semester will be online to allow for a return testing protocol for undergraduate students. All undergraduates will be required to submit a negative off-campus COVID-19 test result and to receive a negative on-campus COVID-19 test result before classes resume in-person on Monday, Jan. 24.
Increasing positive COVID-19 cases, holiday travel and the emergence of the Omicron variant present real risks, and we want to maximize the safety when faculty, staff and students return to campus in a few weeks. This protocol has been chosen to identify and isolate any positive COVID-19 cases in students before they return to our community. In addition to guidelines for undergraduate students, I am also putting requirements in place for all additional members of our community.
COVID-19 Guidelines for Faculty, Staff and Graduate Students
- Faculty, staff and graduate students (including those who are fully vaccinated) are required to receive two negative on-campus COVID-19 test results (at least three days apart) when employees return to campus in January.
- If at all possible, please complete your two negative tests prior to Jan. 15 to avoid the demands of returning students.
- We are still considering if COVID-19 vaccine boosters will be required for the Spring 2022 semester. However, we strongly recommend that during the winter break, all who are eligible receive a vaccine booster. If you have already received a booster, thank you for taking this important step.
- All unvaccinated employees and graduate students will continue to be required to test every other day to remain in compliance.
- Graduate and professional students may receive additional information from their deans, and they should follow that guidance.
I want to give you this information now so you can prepare. We will continue to monitor the situation and seek guidance from health experts at our university, in our community, in our state and in our country. I know that everyone is tired from the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on our lives. I hope you know that we do not make COVID-19 decisions lightly. At the same time, it is my responsibility to do everything I can to maximize your safety and experience at this university, and if that means additional COVID-19 restrictions because of new variants or any other developments, then we are prepared to make those decisions.
I have said from the day I became chancellor that I would lead with transparency, and I will continue to make that commitment to each of you. Thank you for all of the effort and sacrifices you have made so far to minimize the impact of COVID-19. I’m so grateful for your care for one another, and I am so proud of the COVID-19 ecosystem and community we have built here together at Illinois.
Robert J. Jones