Chicago’s Universities and Colleges Prepare for Re-Opening and Vaccinations
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced dramatic changes at Chicago’s universities and colleges, disrupting campuses and creating new challenges for students, faculty and staff as classes were moved to online and dorms were emptied. As AUC institutions responded to these challenges, they also unleashed their creative energies and resources to help their communities, support health workers on the front lines, and seek medical breakthroughs to fight the virus. Initiatives included:
Collecting and Producing Personal Protective Equipment
One of the most significant early issues our healthcare workers were facing at the start of the pandemic in Chicago was the severe shortage of PPE to keep them safe during their shifts. To combat this, universities have been very creative in their production and donations of PPE to local hospitals and healthcare facilities. Some schools made use of their 3D printers to create face shields and N95 masks. Others swept inventories of nursing classes, theater, and art studios to donate N95 masks. Students and faculty donated their time and materials to sew cloth surgical masks.
UIC Medical Students Graduate Early to Aid Hospitals Respond to the Surge
PPE is not the only shortage the healthcare system experienced; many hospitals and facilities also faced a shortage of qualified employees. The University of Illinois College of Medicine responded to this issue by allowing 192 of its medical students to graduate early and enter the workforce. As medical professionals grew increasingly overworked, it was more important than ever to have these new graduates begin their residencies and support local hospitals in any way they could.
University of Chicago Commits Fund and Food to its Surrounding Neighborhoods
To provide emergency support and address some of the immediate needs of local residents, businesses, and community-based nonprofits on the city’s South Side, the University of Chicago launched a multifaceted COVID-19 Community Support Initiative. This effort includes using the University’s existing infrastructure and dining workers – many of whom are South Side residents – to safely prepare and, in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, distribute 225,000 meals to community members struggling to feed themselves and their families. Additionally, the University has awarded more than $680,000 in emergency bridge grants to 182 small businesses across its nine South Side neighborhood focus areas to cover general operating expenses and direct support for impacted employees while also bolstering the recovery of active commercial corridors. Other assistance provided through the initiative has included $157,000 in grants and $153,000 in rent relief to the University’s small business tenants and $400,000 in grants and organizational help to community-based nonprofits on the South Side. Support was mobilized as quickly as possible in order to help bridge the resource gap in this critical period as public and private sector COVID-19 aid becomes available.
AUC Universities and Their Medical Schools Lead the Search for Treatments and a Vaccine for COVID-19
Researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, University of Illinois College of Medicine and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine have been active in exploring different approaches to addressing the mitigation of the Coronavirus pandemic, including (run cursor over each dot point to activate links):
- Clinical trials for various treatments, including the anti-viral medicine, Remdesivir (Rush University, UChicago, UIC), sarilumab drug study (UIC), and plasma transfusions (UChicago)
- New treatment for COVID-19 patients with severe breathing problems (Rush)
- Research into the molecular structure of the novel Coronavirus to develop a possible vaccine (UChicago, Northwestern)
- Self-sanitizing facemasks (Northwestern)
- Development of a rapid, inexpensive, mass-produced, simple-to-administer test for Coronavirus (Northwestern)
- University of Illinois at Chicago/UI Health is among the first institutions in the nation to participate in the Healthcare Worker Exposure Response and Outcomes Registry to understand health care worker experiences, track their health outcomes related to the pandemic, and give healthcare workers an opportunity to participate in clinical trials.
Scientists Use Predictive Modeling to Help Government Plan for Re-opening the Economy
A group of Ecologists from the University of Chicago has been leading an initiative to assist the state government in plotting the advance of the Coronavirus—to help government officials look into the future regarding when to begin to reduce restrictions on people and the economy. They and others at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois are using sophisticated mathematical modeling programs, fed with real-time data from the spread of the virus, to gain some understanding of what the future might hold.
Universities Support the State of Illinois in Producing COVID-19 Testing Materials
Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech), University of Illinois Chicago, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and private firms have been asked by the state to produce hundreds of thousands of vials of Virus Transport Medium (VTM) — a crucial testing material for COVID-19 — and make them available to the Illinois Department of Public Health to expand the pipeline for the critical materials needed for increased COVID-19 testing.
Schools collaborate with the Mayor’s office and Chicago Department of Public Health on COVID-19 Guidelines and Vaccinations
With America’s Urban Campus as the coordinator, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois in Chicago, Chicago State University, Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago, National Louis University, Columbia College Chicago, and City Colleges of Chicago, were asked this summer by the City of Chicago to form the Higher Education Working Group of the City’s Reopening Task Force. The members helped review and draft Phase IV Reopening Guidelines for Higher Education.
Since re-opening their campuses following the guidelines, the schools have succeeded in keeping student, faculty, and staff cases of COVID to a minimum. Representatives have also assisted the City in implementing travel advisories both for fall and the holidays and in reviewing the tightening of restrictions as COVID cases have risen across the country.
The group worked with the city of Chicago to secure vaccine providers for university vaccination clinics and support vaccination drives for students.
Institutional COVID-19 Policies
America’s Urban Campus colleges and universities have been working hard to keep faculty, staff, and students safe. Below are the COVID-19 resources and guidelines for each university:
- Chicago State University
- City Colleges of Chicago
- Columbia College Chicago
- DePaul University
- Illinois Institute of Technology
- Loyola University Chicago
- National Louis University
- Northeastern Illinois University
- Northwestern University
- Roosevelt University
- Rush University
- Saint Xavier University
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago
- St. Augustine College
- The University of Chicago
- University of Illinois at Chicago