In-Person Activities and Free Mask Distribution

January 21, 2022

To: Members of the University Community
From: Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost, and Katie Callow-Wright, Executive Vice President of the University and Chief of Staff in the Office of the President

After more than a month of closely monitoring the impact of the Omicron variant nationwide and in Chicago, the University is moving forward with plans to resume in-person instruction on January 24, in consultation with experts at the University of Chicago Medicine.

While we are maintaining a high level of precautions, overall infections in Chicago have decreased by about half since January 1. The number of COVID-19 in-patients at the University of Chicago Medicine has been slowly decreasing from the record highs of late December, and the hospital staffing situation has improved. We are moving forward with the continuing priorities of maximizing in-person instruction while upholding the health and safety of our community and managing ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 surge.

Since early December the University has taken many steps in response to the surge in cases; you can find a brief summary of recent changes and added precautions on the UChicago Forward site. These include expansion of the on-campus UChicago COVID-19 Testing Program to include symptomatic and exposure testing; limiting dine-in service on campus; updates to UChicago’s exposure protocols with the most recent CDC guidance; encouraging travelers to schedule tests before and after returning to the city; and revisions to the non-instruction meeting guidance. Please remember that eligible students must take steps to comply with the University’s COVID-19 booster requirement by January 24; for University employees, the deadline is January 31. We urge members of the University to avoid large social gatherings or unmasked interactions as our community returns to campus and while cases remain high.

Free Mask Distribution

Masking is required in all University buildings with limited exceptions, and it is essential to follow masking requirements in classrooms and shared office space. The University does not require individuals to wear a certain type of mask on campus, but does strongly recommend masks that have two or more layers, and fit snugly against the sides of the face with no gaps.

To help uphold safety in classrooms and office settings, free surgical-grade masks will be available to UChicago students and employees for pick-up at the Front Desk Reception of the Quadrangle Club (1155 E. 57th St.). Masks will be available from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., on Sunday, January 23 through Friday, January 28.

Experts at UChicago Medicine have advised that surgical masks can be an important component of protection against transmission of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, in addition to KN95 or KF94 masks. A surgical mask or a cloth mask provides a good level of protection, but it’s preferable to double-mask with two surgical masks or by wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask. The CDC recently provided updated guidance on choosing a type of mask or respirator for different situations.

We look forward to welcoming more of our community back to campus and resuming in-person activities with necessary precautions. For additional updates and information on precautions, please visit the UChicago Forward website and look for the regular UChicago Forward email updates.