University researchers’ precautions contrast county rules
February 25, 2021
Many researchers have suggested to double mask and avoid in-person eating, while the county has opened up in-person dining, including limited space at dining halls. The B117 variant, the variant that resulted in the UK’s third lockdown, stands as a threat to the safety of students.
“There is definitely a disconnect between researchers’ concerns about more infectious variants and public policy, not just in the county but in the nation as a whole,” said Nigel Goldenfeld, professor in Grainger. “The criteria for relaxing tiered mitigation levels are heavily based on hospital occupancy and downward case trends and were developed at a time when there was no awareness of rapidly emerging more transmissible and deadly variants such as B117.”
The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce press release updated on Jan. 21 announced that Phase 4 of the governor’s mitigations for inside dining had been implemented. The new phase gives limited capacity depending on the restaurant to ensure a minimum of six feet of distance between tables. A 10 person party limit is also in place, while standing areas have a 25% capacity limitation.
The Housing website states that the University dining locations require masks and social distancing at all times. Hand sanitizer stations and sanitizing wipes are also available at different locations and limited dine-in seating is available. To accommodate all these restrictions, similar menus are being served at different dining halls and service hours have been extended.
“Eating out is a major concern as it would involve removing your mask,” said Rebecca Lee Smith, associate professor in AHS, who suggests ordering take-out instead.
Smith’s recommendation is to wear a poly-propylene mask with a cloth mask for the former’s filtration and the latter’s fit in case one does not have a N-95 mask.
“I have been double masking (for) the past three weeks,” said Smith.
Goldenfeld added that many researchers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, are recommending and following double masking and avoiding in-person eating due to foresight regarding the potential danger.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted that B117 will be the dominant strain in the U.S. in March, and it is currently doubling every 10 days or so,” said Goldenfeld, who urges everyone to double mask when grocery shopping and to be fully compliant with University testing and local public health district requirements as B117 is already spreading on campus.
“We need to continue following the existing precautions in place to ensure that we reduce cases,” said Smith.