Update on Coronavirus Precautions and Testing

From: Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost, and Kenneth S. Polonsky, Dean and Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs

Subject: Update on Coronavirus Precautions and Testing

Date: March 25, 2020

Thanks to the collaboration of our entire University community, we have rapidly implemented important steps in the battle against coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Unfortunately, we are entering a critical next phase in which Chicago is expected to experience significantly higher rates of infection and rising need for medical care, in line with what we've seen elsewhere. Now more than ever, we must work together to further prepare and continue to help those in our community and city who are most vulnerable.

Here's what you can do to help:

  • Remain at home as much as possible.
  • Continue recognizing and supporting our healthcare professionals and others in essential roles. The response by our colleagues at the University of Chicago Medicine (UCM) is extraordinary. Let's do everything possible to support medical staff and other essential colleagues whose work requires them to be on campus, including staff in security, dining, housing, facilities, and other areas. Shortages of personal protection equipment (PPE) are painfully real and every effort is being made through University, city and state efforts to secure what is needed. We have received critical help from a number of people in our broad University community, but much more is needed. Individuals and businesses outside of the University who can donate supplies may covid-donations@uchospitals.edu with questions or for drop-off instructions.
  • Help us focus efforts on the sickest and most vulnerable. UCM faces an increasingly difficult situation, like hospitals across the nation. Our data indicate that many more people will get sick over the next 7-10 days. We are contending with the national shortage of supplies, such as the PPE needed to treat serious cases of COVID-19 safely, and special swabs needed to conduct tests. This will require focusing our limited resources on treating those most in need of medical care and saving lives.
  • Know who should get tested. Following guidance from the Chicago Department of Public Health, UCM and Student Health Services (SHS) are only able to test the most vulnerable and seriously ill patients, in addition to healthcare workers. Most people with mild symptoms will not be tested at this time. For information to determine if you need testing, call your doctor or visit the Chicago Department of Public Health's COVID-19 information Page.
  • Know who should go to the hospital. Anyone with severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should call their doctor or 911. The best course for people with milder symptoms is to stay home, self-isolate for 14 days, and monitor their symptoms on an ongoing basis. Call ahead before visiting any medical office.
  • Support our South Side community. By taking public health guidelines seriously and maintaining social distancing - whether you have symptoms or not - you will reduce your risk of contracting the disease or spreading it to someone else. This is a time to reaffirm our community's commitment to the people of Chicago's South Side. The University is organizing additional ways to support healthcare workers and people across Chicago's South Side, including access to food for those most in need. University leaders will communicate more about how you can help in the coming days and weeks.

Some of our most challenging days lay ahead. But the steps we take now can reduce risks for the most vulnerable among us, strengthen our community, and prepare for our eventual recovery. Thank you for your continued diligence and commitment.