Questions to the Chancellor


Mark Capapas

Mark Capapas the daily illini Chancellor Robert Jones prepares to give the State of the University address on Jan. 24 in the Illini Ballroom.

By JJ Kim

1. The University referenced data models developed by faculty in a recent Massmail that predicted that there would be a few hundred positive cases. What factors were considered to create these models? 

Our data models were created by a team led by Professors Nigel Goldenfeld and Sergei Maslov. The specific models mentioned in the massmail were created to predict how many students would arrive on campus and test positive during our entry screening. These calculations were based on our predicted number of individuals arriving back to campus and on information we have about the estimated prevalence of COVID-19. Based on these numbers, the scientists predicted a few hundred positive cases in the first few weeks of the Fall 2020 semester. We are currently within the range of their predictions.

2. According to the models, when should students, faculty and staff expect the peak of positive cases?

The models predict the highest number of positive cases in the first two weeks of the semester. This shows that the number of cases is rising because of individuals coming to the campus who were already infected, not because there is community spread on our campus. This is a very important distinction.

As you know, we experienced some delays in processing tests last week. We are working to reduce the time to process, but until the new equipment and process are in place, those who have not received their latest test results should be very cautious to avoid any possible exposure.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

3. After the first week of class, are the number of positive cases similar to what the University expected?

According to our scientists, at this point our positive cases are within the predicted range. Of course, we continue to monitor cases, build new models and refine our predictions. And, it is important to remember that models are estimates only and are useful to identify trends.

4. What is the University’s reaction to the emergency order that allows bars to have outdoor seating, despite the CDC discouraging this exact practice? 

The University has been working very closely with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD), which guides the local response based on the specific situation in our community. We also work very closely with the mayors of Champaign and Urbana, and we have met with bar owners on the local approach.