Spring break advice from UIC contact tracing

While the 2021-2022 holiday season brought the highest number of COVID-19 cases to Chicago and UIC since the pandemic began, the past few weeks have brought a welcome respite as cases, hospitalizations and positivity has dropped dramatically.

Despite these encouraging changes, it is important to remember that travel and social gatherings in close proximity to holidays and vacations have contributed to increased infections on our campus and across the country. In 2021, the city of Chicago reported a spike in cases and positivity in March and April, likely attributed to the record number of people who traveled at that time since the pandemic began. Spring break even led to an outbreak of COVID-19 at one of Chicago’s universities, primarily among unvaccinated undergraduates who traveled during the break.

As Spring Break approaches, the UIC Contact Tracing and Epidemiology Program reminds you of the following:

  • Travel: If you choose to travel, be sure to familiarize yourself with the COVID-19 restrictions at your destination. You should also make sure to follow local and campus advice when you return.
    • We recommend that you report any travel to our team 24-48 hours prior to your return to Illinois. Our team can provide you with personalized public health advice based on your vaccination status and destination.
    • General travel recommendations can also be found on our website.
    • For more information on safety during spring break, visit this CDC page.
  • Vaccination: Get vaccinated if you haven’t already. If you are eligible for the booster shot, we strongly recommend that you schedule it now.
    • If you are traveling, you should complete a series of COVID-19 vaccinations at least two weeks before travel for maximum protection.
  • Masking: Although indoor mask mandates end in all 50 states by the end of the month, we encourage you to wear a mask that is thick enough, fits well, and covers your nose, mouth, and chin. Other considerations for maximizing protection include wearing a disposable mask under a cloth mask (double masking).
    • Masking is especially important for people who are unvaccinated, up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, or at high risk of severe COVID-19 illness.
    • Masking continues to be recommended by the CDC for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, in community levels designated as high risk. It is also recommended that people at high risk of severe illness and those with household or social contacts at high risk of severe illness wear medium-risk masks.
    • Remember that the federal government still requires the wearing of masks at airports, train stations, bus stations and other means of public transport. We recommend that you wear a mask when using other means of transport, such as carpools.
  • Test: You should get tested before a gathering. Testing is especially important when multiple households come together, and even more so when people come from different states or countries.
    • Although PCR tests are the most reliable, COVID-19 self-tests are easy to use, produce quick results, and can be found at many pharmacies and online.
    • COVID-19 self-tests allow testing at home and can produce quick results; however, repeat testing is desirable if attending a gathering.
      • If you test positive using a COVID-19 self-test, be sure to let us know. Please note that UIC does not currently accept home testing as proof of infection and repeat confirmatory testing (lab PCR) will be advised.
    • The on-campus saliva test is quick, convenient, and no appointment is required. Be sure to check the Saliva Testing website for hours of operation during breaks.

Please let us know if you develop symptoms of COVID-19, test positive, or have known exposure to someone confirmed or suspected to be COVID-positive. Let’s work together to keep your friends, loved ones and our UIC community safe. We wish you a safe and relaxing spring break.