U of I, Champaign County health officials “highly recommend” the masks

CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Illinois (WCIA) – The masks are back on the University of Illinois campus as students begin their second week of class. A reminder sent Sunday evening by University Chancellor Robert Jones to students, faculty and staff strongly recommended the use of a “high quality face cover” in the classroom “for the next few weeks”.

“For the next three to four weeks, it’s very important that everyone keeps their guard,” McKinley Health Center director Awais Vaid said Monday.

The 7-day positivity rate at college approached 15% on Monday, and nearly 20% of the tests taken by college students were positive. Vaid said it’s similar to the rate the school saw when students returned in 2020 and 2021.

“This week and next could be critical for us. That’s why the chancellor strongly reminded that masks are still great options, ”Vaid continued.

University leaders expect cases to peak around that time, the note said.

“In terms of hospitalizations, in terms of deaths, in terms of ICU admissions, in terms of the overwhelmed health care system, it’s not doing it,” Vaid said, differentiating this peak from those of past years. “But that doesn’t mean people aren’t infected.”

“Even if it’s like, ‘Oh, we still have to wear masks and this thing is still happening,’ it’s definitely still good. You never want to be so oblivious to what’s going on around here, right? ”Sophomore Elijah Esho said in support of the university’s strong recommendation.

The data showing that the positivity rate has increased is also somewhat biased, Vaid said, because the tests aren’t as widely available as they were in the past couple of years.

“So we’re only getting a small snapshot of what’s going on,” he added.

“Also, as you know, contact tracing has been completely scrapped at the state level, even at the local level.”

Even with limited data, the director and professional epidemiologist said, “It looks like we are heading in a direction where we could see a significant volume of cases this week.”

It’s all part of the transition to the endemic phase of the coronavirus response, according to Vaid, where we are learning to live with the virus rather than upset society.

The decision to highly recommend masks comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state guidelines for communities dealing with high bit rates. The campus community and Champaign County were both considered high transmission areas on Monday.

“The chancellor has the discretion to entrust it but, you know, we’ve always tried to be very consistent with federal state and local guidelines,” Vaid added.

The sea of ​​students Monday on campus, whose university experiences were mostly disguised, had different responses to the recommendation. Less than a third wore them on the crowded trek between classes, but more said they wore them or would wear them to class.

“I think the masks are quite symbolic as they represent this pandemic,” said sophomore Sean Liu. “And the fact that we’re slowly getting rid of it, you know, is kind of like leaving all of that behind.”

“I feel more comfortable just wearing masks,” said one elder who did not wish to be identified by name simply.

“I enjoyed seeing people and it made you appreciate it more once we were able to take off the masks and get back together with people,” said freshman Tommy Miller, adding that he won’t be wearing a mask in class. He cited antibodies from a recent COVID-19 infection.

“I think overall it lets me know that the school wants security,” Esho concluded.

The saliva test is still available for Union Illini students. Cases so far have been mostly asymptomatic, Vaid said.

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District also strongly recommends that everyone wear a face mask in indoor public spaces. The news came today after administrator Julie Pryde said community and campus cases combined have increased by about 50% in the past week.

ANNOUNCEMENT FROM CUPHD:

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD) announces that community-wide transmission of COVID-19 in Champaign County is high and strongly recommends that everyone wear a mask when indoors in public spaces. The level of transmission is based on three indicators which include the rate of new cases per 100,000 population, the percentage of hospital beds with staff occupied by COVID-19 patients, and new hospitalizations for COVID-19 per 100,000 population.

According to Julie Pryde, CEO of CUPHD, “The number of cases in the community and on campus has increased by about 50% in the past week. Based on trends from previous years, we are likely to see a higher spread over the next 10 days. “Masking indoors and staying at home when sick with symptoms will help reduce this spread.”

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