To: Members of the University Community
From: Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost
Subject: Update on Campus-wide Planning
Date: June 3, 2020
As President Zimmer wrote recently to the campus community, planning efforts are underway to enable the resumption of additional programs and operations on campus. At this time activities on campus remain limited to essential personnel with authorization required by their deans and officers. We are working in accordance with plans established by Illinois and Chicago, which are in the process of allowing non-essential personnel to return to work in phases. Faculty and administrators across the University are working carefully on plans to safely resume activities on campus, guided by the values and priorities that President Zimmer has outlined.
Planning groups have been established to focus on research, education, housing and dining, workplace, N-12 education, and national labs, and I am deeply grateful for the thoughtful, data-driven approach of these efforts. Working with guidance from the University of Chicago Medicine, information about our plans for FY21 will be shared with the University community by the end of June. In the meantime the University has launched a website at to provide regular updates on planning, information on the committees charged with focusing on key functions of the University, and public health protocols.
Our intention is to bring as much of the University community back to campus as possible in time for the Autumn Quarter, in a way that is fully consistent with upholding public health and following the guidelines established by federal, state, and local authorities. This pandemic has illuminated our interdependence as a University community and a society more broadly. Our individual health and the vitality of our community rests on each of us taking actions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and adopting a campus-wide culture focused on public health and safety.
Though we are continuing to proceed with great caution, there have been some encouraging signs in recent weeks about the course of the pandemic:
  • The University of Chicago Medicine’s caseload of patients with COVID-19 has gradually but steadily decreased and testing capacity at UCM now exceeds 1,000 tests per day.
  • The State of Illinois has begun to move from the Phase 2 “flattening” stage to the Phase 3 “recovery” stage in the “Restore Illinois” plan. The City of Chicago is entering Phase 3 today.
Preparations and Expectations for Those on Campus
Our gradual approach to increasing activity on campus will be aligned with the phases defined by local and federal authorities, limiting the density of people on campus in order to inhibit the spread of disease. In keeping with the fundamental need to ensure safety, any work that can be done remotely should continue to be conducted remotely. We will carefully evaluate the data from our campus and from other universities as we proceed. The first step, anticipated for mid-June, will be a gradual resumption of research activities and other campus functions that must be conducted in person to support research or education.  There is a process for unit leaders (deans and officers) to submit proposed plans for limited operations on campus during the gradual resumption. Second, starting around July 15, we will begin to increase the functions and the number of people on campus. We anticipate the third phase will begin with Autumn Quarter.
In the coming months we will expect all members of the University community to adopt new precautions, developed by our working groups, as a minimum requirement for returning to campus:
  • Universal face coverings: Everyone is expected to wear a face covering over the nose and the mouth at all times while in University buildings, and on the campus grounds when others are present.
  • Social distancing: Limiting contact among people on campus is critical. While on campus, you should remain at least 6 feet away from others. When walking in corridors and entries where you must pass someone close than 6 feet away, move with purpose. The University has begun to post signs to facilitate social distancing, including specifying the number of people allowed in a particular area at one time.
  • Self-monitoring: Anyone coming to campus is expected to self-monitor for symptoms and stay home if you have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 or have had any symptoms over the past 24 hours, including: cough, runny or stuffy nose, shortness of breath, fever, difficulty breathing, chills, body aches, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Anyone with symptoms should not go to their University destination and should consult their healthcare provider and inform their supervisor. Any employee or student who is experiencing symptoms can contact the UChicago Medicine COVID-19 triage hotline for screening, at 773.702.2800.
  • COVID-19 Reporting: Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 should not come to campus for at least 10 days AND must be symptom-free for an additional 72 hours before returning to work. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and has been in a University owned or operated facility must contact so that the health and safety of others in our facilities can be addressed.
  • Training: Anyone returning to campus (faculty, other academic appointees, staff and students) will be required to complete a short training program in advance. Individuals will be required to sign an electronic form affirming that they will comply with safety precautions, including reporting of positive cases, and that they will self-monitor for symptoms related to COVID-19.
  • Travel: The University is continuing the suspension of university-sponsored international and domestic travel until further notice. The U.S. State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are continuing to advise avoiding all nonessential international travel due to widespread ongoing transmission.
These measures will help us achieve our goal of providing a safe environment for our entire campus community. Please remember that we are still in a dynamic COVID-19 environment. These policies pertain to the early stages of returning to on-campus work and could change as the situation evolves.
As always, thank you for adapting to these challenges, and for your dedication to safeguarding our University community while continuing to advance our educational mission.