02 Sep UICUF Position on Contact Tracing
- Contact Tracing Plans: In an announcement last week, UIC described contact tracing plans and encouraged faculty with classes over 30 students to use seating charts to facilitate the process. We are pleased to say that Admin did consult with us prior to publishing this policy.
- Contact Tracing Team: UIC has created a tracing team that will do most of the heavy lifting should someone report a COVID positive test. You can disclose a positive test with UIC’s online reporting tool. The team will respond with mitigation plans, possibly including isolation, and will gather info to learn who else might be exposed. Confidentiality will be a priority in the team’s work.
- Faculty Responsibilities: Faculty are encouraged to maintain seating charts for classes over 30 students. If exposure in your classroom occurs, the tracing team, not the faculty member, should be responsible for follow up with students. If you have questions or feel the policy is not being applied correctly, message us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.
This is the fifth installment in our series of policy positions on critical elements of UIC’s fall reopening plans. We have already covered remote/alternate work accommodations, masking and distancing policies, academic freedom and IP rights, and ventilation in prior communications. With each of these policy statements, we aim to share and clarify existing university policies as they stand today, describe the union’s stance relative to these policies, and offer direct guidance to faculty for navigating day-to-day with regard to these policies. Today we are discussing contact tracing.
Current Policy: Per a UIC announcement last week and again this week, those testing positive for COVID-19 are advised to disclose to university contact tracers using the online reporting tool. UIC’s contact tracing staff will be in touch with anyone who receives a positive saliva test or submits a positive test result within 24-48 hours of their result or submission of their results online, respectively. Contact tracing staff will then provide regular follow-up during a person’s isolation period. UIC contact tracing staff will then inform these individuals when it is acceptable for them to leave isolation. You can read the current protocol for people who are to isolate or quarantine here.
Contact tracing staff will also ask for a list of persons who may have been exposed to infected individuals. If an individual receives a positive test result, it is important that they compile a list of persons with whom they have been in close contact so UIC contact tracing can reach out by phone to any UIC employee or student who may have been exposed. Every effort will be made to keep the name of the infected individual confidential. Persons with significant exposures to the infected individual will be asked to quarantine. Full details of current policy are here.
Provost Reyes invited UICUF leadership to discuss his plans for asking (not requiring) faculty to maintain seating charts in classes with more than 30 students that would aid contact tracing staff in identifying selected individuals in a class of a possible risk, rather than having to inform an entire classroom. Note that for classes with 30 or fewer students, all students will be contacted if someone in it tests positive. We were heartened by Provost Reyes’s reaching out for such consultation and are eager to develop this collegial relationship.
In the meantime, we have heard from faculty who have been asked by contact tracing staff to email all students in their class to let them know a student had a positive test and that some–but not all–students had been contacted by UIC for tracing due to possible exposure. Another faculty member was told by contract tracing staff to photograph each class session to aid in identifying people should someone else test positive. Neither of these actions — sending email or photographing classrooms — was discussed in our meeting with Provost Reyes, and is not in the information shared with faculty 8/27/21 or 8/30/21. We have followed up to raise the concern that faculty should not have these responsibilities.
UICUF Position: UICUF supports campus testing and contact tracing as important elements of limiting the spread of covid-19 and allowing us to continue with on-campus instruction. We are looking forward to hearing from the UIC administration on the full protocol for anyone affected — faculty, students and staff — for assuring all are safe and healthy if a positive case is reported, and to seeing consistent implementation of the protocol. Faculty should not be left in the position of informing students of their possible exposure, nor should they be left to advise students about what they ought to do when they learn of possible exposure to covid-19. All such communication ought to come from the university’s professional contact tracers.
Guidance to Faculty: UICUF stands ready to assist and advocate for you should you have questions about contact tracing policy, or if you encounter anything that places inappropriate burdens on you. We have already learned a great deal about the complexities and difficulties of complying with current policies and practices from members’ messages and inquiries. Our goal is to bring these back to the administration so we can help make things work better for all involved. Please continue to let us know, as frequently as necessary, about your concerns.
UIC United Faculty