The University of Chicago announced on Monday that it is "planning for a full resumption of activities on campus by the start of the new academic year in September," citing the limited spread of COVID-19 at the school and promising local vaccination trends.
"The vast majority of our community has upheld the public health precautions in the UChicago Health Pact, and we have developed effective responses to the cases that have emerged, including through contact tracing and isolation of infected individuals," wrote U. of C. President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee Lee in an email to students, faculty and employees.
"As vaccination has progressed on our campus and in surrounding communities, we have seen even fewer cases emerge, and we often have no students in on-campus isolation housing."
The school's own COVID statistics show that there have been 866 total cases at the school since Sept. 18. In the past few weeks, the number of new cases has ranged from 10 to 35, and fewer than five students are currently isolating in on-campus housing after testing positive. (There was, however, a recent cluster of cases among students at the Booth School of Business, which a U. of C. spokesperson said was tied to St. Patrick's Day celebrations.)
In their email, Zimmer and Lee said the return of students and employees to campus depends on a number of other factors, including persistent low rates of infection, no new outbreaks of coronavirus variants, the continuation of current vaccination efforts, and adherence to social distancing and public health guidelines.
According to data from the city, about 27% of Chicagoans received their first vaccine dose by March 28; another 14% have gotten both doses.
The city has moved into Phase 1C of its vaccination plan, making essential workers and people with underlying conditions eligible. Starting on March 29, the U. of C. is operating a vaccine clinic for its employees. (Most students will not be eligible for a vaccine until the next phase, which is expected to begin in May.)
"After a year of remarkable upheaval, it is a welcome change to plan for the return to in-person engagement at the University of Chicago," Zimmer and Lee wrote. "We must keep precautions in place to prevent COVID-19 from overtaking these plans. But with everyone’s continued commitment, we will succeed in this next important task."