Building on COVID-19 Successes for Winter Quarter

December 11, 2020

To: Members of the University Community

From: Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost

I am writing to share my thanks once more for our campus community’s diligence and success in implementing public health precautions this fall, and to look ahead as we prepare for a safe and healthy Winter Quarter.

We entered this academic year with the goals of limiting the spread of COVID-19 while upholding the University’s distinctive approach to education, research, and intellectual life. We all have had to sacrifice some aspects of in-person interaction and seek creative ways of performing our duties, enriching friendships, and pursuing intellectual ambitions. We have faced enormous challenges as individuals and as a community – whether shifting to remote instruction, arranging for childcare, waking up at 2 a.m. to participate in a synchronous class session, or countless other adjustments. Your dedication has allowed the University not only to persevere but to continue flourishing. We should all be proud of this accomplishment, and I am deeply grateful to you for it.

To continue this momentum as we enter the winter break period, it is important to prepare for a Winter Quarter that is likely to bring unique challenges. This is especially true as COVID-19 cases remain at a high level nationwide. Your help on these points can contribute to the health and safety of our campus:

  • Keep Following the UChicago Health Pact: Whether you are staying in the Chicago area or traveling, we know the health pact’s precautions can help reduce your close contacts and limit the spread of COVID-19. It can also lower your risk of bringing the virus back to campus.
  • Plan Ahead for Your Transition to Campus: Even while taking precautions, the break period can bring unpredictable risks of exposure to COVID-19. In the seven days before you come to campus – whether you are returning or arriving for the first time – avoid any unnecessary contacts and follow a “stay at home” routine as much as possible. We advise avoiding any large gatherings, including on New Year’s Eve. Travelers should also check the latest update of the City of Chicago’s Emergency Travel Order.
  • Cold Weather Brings Risks: The coldest winter months could be especially challenging because there will be fewer opportunities to socialize outside, where transmission of the coronavirus is less likely. Maintaining public health precautions will be especially vital during this time to limit the spread of the virus on our campus and in the city. Wearing face coverings indoors is vital, even if you think you can maintain six feet of distance from others.
  • Patience on Vaccines: There has been encouraging news recently about COVID-19 vaccines, including Thursday’s vote by an FDA advisory committee in favor of emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. But the timing of distribution for the general population remains uncertain, and all of our public health precautions must continue until further notice. Once vaccines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the first wave of recipients will be healthcare workers who are working directly with patients and residents of long-term care facilities like nursing homes. We will keep the University community updated as plans develop for vaccine distribution.

Thank you for your partnership, and I hope you have a rewarding and restful winter break. For more information on steps to protect our campus community please visit UChicago Forward.

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