Chancellor Jones talks two-week restrictions, collaboration

Chancellor+Robert+Jones+prepares+to+give+the+State+of+the+University+address+on+Jan.+24.+Jones+answers+the+Daily+Illini%E2%80%99s+questions+concerning+UI%E2%80%99s+COVID-19+response+in+this+Staff+Report.

Mark Capapas

Chancellor Robert Jones prepares to give the State of the University address on Jan. 24. Jones answers the Daily Illini’s questions concerning UI’s COVID-19 response in this Staff Report.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison had a similar two-week restriction and subsequent email that was also similar to Chancellor Jones’ email. How much collaboration happens between Illinois and its surrounding schools?

Several University of Wisconsin officials reached out to their counterparts at Illinois to learn how and why we implemented our two-week effort to crush the curve. We shared our process, approach and messaging with them, and they used quite a bit of it.

We are always working in collaboration with other universities. We are a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, the Association of American Universities and I am the current chairman of the board of directors of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. And, of course, we work with other universities in the state of Illinois through the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Throughout the pandemic, we have been in close consultation with our peer institutions to share and identify best practices and innovative solutions. For example, several universities have asked us for assistance and guidance in using our saliva test and Safer Illinois app. We are delighted to help our fellow institutions find a path to move forward.

We are over a week into the two-week restriction period, how effective has this been in curbing the spread of COVID-19 on campus?

So far, we are seeing fewer positive test results as well as fewer gathering violations, and we are identifying and suspending the people who are refusing to comply with quarantine and isolation guidance. We still need everyone to continue being diligent about following the public health protocols we’ve had in place all semester and the additional precautions through Sept. 16. We know that quarantine and isolation are not fun, but when everyone follows the guidelines, we will be able to move forward together.

If the two-week restriction proves to be successful, what is the next step that you will take to continue to ensure the spread of the virus is limited? 

The improvements we’ve made in increased enforcement and connecting more quickly with students who test positive or are exposed to someone who tested positive will continue. We’ve also used the data we’ve collected so far to fine tune our testing schedules, with the goal of ensuring that everyone can get their results — and any support they need to isolate or quarantine — more quickly.