The cities of Champaign and Urbana both issued emergency orders intended to prevent a possible surge in COVID-19 cases as students return to campus for the fall semester. Illinois researchers Eric Jakobsson and Santiago Nunez-Corrales created a computer model that estimated that students will bring back nine times the viral load – or rate of disease – than of community members. In a letter to both city councils, they recommended the cities, all bars and restaurants return to having only curbside pick-up, delivery or drive through. They said without those measures there could be an additional 800 cases, 80 more hospitalizations and four more deaths.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign quietly announced on Tuesday an expansion of its Covid-19 testing by requiring students to be tested routinely even if they live in the community but do not plan to come to campus. The decision comes during a week when two university epidemiologists recommended in a letter to city officials in Champaign and Urbana that they go back from current Phase 4 of the Illinois reopening plan to Phase 3 to limit the spread of the virus during the surge of returning students.
Most of the international students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s 2019-2020 academic year are from countries with lower daily Covid-19 infection rates than the United States, according to a CU-CitizenAccess analysis. Last spring, 9,824 international students attended the University from more than 100 countries, according to university data.
Champaign County has had about 2 percent of those tested for the virus receive positive results, which means the person should self-quarantine for 14 days. But a comparison of state public health test data on August 3 and ZIP code data for students who attended the University in the last academic year shows that 20,000 out of 28,000 students from Illinois may arrive from ZIP codes with positive percentages above 5 percent, according to a review of the data by CU-CitizenAccess.org.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in January, Champaign County – home to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and about 50,000 faculty, students and staff – has experienced a low number of positive cases when compared to many other areas of the state and the U.S. A comparison of university data on where out-of-state students are from as of the last school year and data on the positivity rates in those states show as many as 5,000 students may be arriving from 32 states that have positivity rates higher than 5 percent, according to a review of the data by CU-CitizenAccess.org