Our goal with SHIELD was to maximize the safety to our students, faculty, staff and community as we opened a fall semester with in-person instruction and residential experiences. Our decisions and operations were adjusted regularly along the way based on what we learned, in response to data we gathered and to react to changing circumstances related to changes in local, state and federal guidance.
We saw the rate of growth of our positive case numbers diverge from our expectations at the beginning of the semester.
- We instituted a two-week essential activities directive after the initial surge to accelerate the downward trend already started by SHIELD's ecosystem of testing, isolation and contact tracing.
- We prioritized testing undergraduates, and started testing those most at risk 3 times/week.
- We adjusted the model parameters constantly to account for more factors (such as student compliance, average time to receive test results, trends in clusters/concentrations of positive cases).
- We openly communicated about the increased cases and shared that information publicly to ensure our entire community was aware of the progression of the virus on campus.
- We worked with CUPHD to expand capacity for contact tracing and notification.
- We worked with University Housing, private landlords and private certified housing to develop processes to more quickly and comfortably allow for isolation and quarantine.
There were challenges processing some of the saliva samples we were receiving.
- We changed the protocol for testing to instruct people to refrain from eating, drinking, tooth brushing, mouth washing, gum chewing, and tobacco use from at least 30 minutes to at least one hour before submitting saliva samples to reduce the possibility of getting inconclusive results.
There were delays getting people isolated after positive tests.
- We established the SHIELD Team 30 that called/texted students, faculty and staff who tested positive within 30 minutes of receiving the test results.
Isolation and quarantine have been very challenging for our students.
- Student Affairs University Housing staff referenced previous experience and response with infectious diseases such as mumps, measles, and H1N1.
- Housing developed quarantine and isolation intake protocols, sanitation and turnover processes, and a meal delivery program.
- Housing quarantine and isolation spaces offered single rooms, micro-fridges (additional micro-fridges were brought in), cleaning supplies, clean linens, and a medical kit, and completed wellness check-ins.
- University Housing put into place alternate operating procedures to mitigate the loss of professional and student staff availability because of quarantine or isolation requirements. These changes ensured Housing could continue to serve students.
- We also developed ways to help students not living in Housing (such as Private Certified Housing) to navigate isolation and quarantine.
- Public Affairs Student Ambassador program launched a series of Zoom meetings to connect with students in isolation and keep them company.
- Student Affairs created iCares Isolation and Quarantine kits that contained personal care items and activities for University Housing students assigned to isolation or quarantine.
- The Infectious Disease Working Group (IDWG) collaborated with area colleges and schools (Pre-K through 12), local emergency management agencies and first responders, local government, area hospitals, and the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (C-UPHD) to manage shared efforts and communications for the U of I campus and C-U community.
Lab capacity and turnaround times were being stretched.
- We adjusted testing frequency requirements for groups where evidence indicated little virus spread (faculty, staff and graduate students) to reduce our testing load and to better balance sample volumes on a daily basis.
- The SHIELD team used modeling to rework the testing days to even out the load on the test sites and the lab.
- The SHIELD team secured robotics to reduce processing time and switched to smaller collection tubes to help with automation.
- We pushed test results to Safer Illinois first, cutting 30-45 minutes off the time people waited to receive their results.
Students told us they needed safe ways to gather for social activities.
- Student Affairs scheduled a series of outdoor events at Memorial Stadium, Grange Grove and on the Quad.
- Student Affairs and the University’s Wellness Associates conducted online gatherings and activities.
- Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) conducted safe, socially distanced gatherings and activities throughout campus.
- University Housing offered spaces with room capacity limits – lounges, lobbies, dining at 25%.
We did not expect the defiance by a small number of students of public health orders.
- We adjusted modeling to account for that.
- We ramped up the discipline process to hold those students accountable.
- We further engaged and added additional social scientists on the SHIELD team.
We heard that some people said they weren’t seeing messaging about COVID-19 and the university’s response.
- We began using the COVID-19 inbox as a way to inform and increase our communications on other channels.
- We held a series of video briefings to offer another way for people to connect to information.
- The chancellor, provost, steering committee leads and SHIELD team members attended many SEC meetings over the summer and throughout the semester.
- Student Affairs opened a call center to answer questions about testing.
We receive many requests for data and expend a great deal of time and effort responding individually.
- Technology Services is redesigning the dashboard to include more types of data, so people who are interested can access it, download it and analyze it themselves.
Some people told us they face medical challenges associated with testing.
- McKinley worked out an exemption system.
- The testing sites added a drive-up option for people who have mobility challenges.
- McKinley began offering a nasal testing option for those who cannot participate in the saliva-based testing program.
Students began telling us they were facing emotional, mental health and wellness challenges.
- We worked with faculty to conduct a survey of student concerns and suggestions.
- We launched a mental health and wellness committee to identify and implement additional measures to support students, faculty and staff by the start of the spring semester.
- The Counseling Center and McKinley Health Center collaborated with Rosecrance Central Illinois to provide students with Psychological Emergency Services, which are available 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, and focus on problems that need to be addressed immediately (e.g., serious illness, death in the family, severe anxiety, suicidal crisis).
- The Counseling Center launched WellTrack, an online and mobile app designed to help students track their moods and teach them about techniques to effectively manage challenging emotions and situations.
- The Counseling Center, in conjunction with United Healthcare, offered online counseling services via telehelp4students.com.The Counseling Center regularly offered psychoeducational workshops, online suicide prevention training via Kognito-At-Risk, and brief, online mental health screenings that assessed for concerns such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance misuse, and eating disorders.