COVID-19: Rising to the challenge

The University of Illinois System has established a COVID-19 Planning and Response Team to help coordinate the system’s response to and communication about the virus, and our three universities are monitoring their campuses and working with their local community agencies. COVID-19 related websites, communications, policies, and other resources can be found on this page.

The U of I System quickly transformed its academic programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 90,000 students are now studying from home, an unprecedented shift that supports efforts to limit face-to-face interaction and curb the spread of the virus. In order to assist students with increasing financial need due to the pandemic, the system created a new $36 million targeted financial aid fund.

At the same time, the system is demonstrating its land-grant mission in real time, marshalling its world-class resources and ramping up its knowledge-generating power to foster solutions that will help steer our state through the crisis.

Here is a look at some of the many contributions by the talented faculty and staff in the system offices, and at the system’s universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield:

U of I System Offices

The Office for Governmental Relations (OGR) is coordinating closely with Gov. Pritzker's office to bring in expertise and resources from across the system to aid in the state's response to the crisis. OGR is also working with university leaders across the state to advocate for funding relief from the federal government. A letter was sent to the Illinois congressional delegation from U of I System leadership urging its leaders to ensure that emergency coronavirus-related legislation included essential relief for Illinois public institutions. A second letter, signed by the presidents of all of the state's public universities, was sent to appeal for additional federal resources.

To help students at its three universities who are facing increased need now and for the coming academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U of I System created a new fund that will provide at least $36 million in new, targeted financial aid.

U of I System UI Ride shuttle bus

The Institute of Government and Public Affairs assembled more than three dozen interdisciplinary faculty experts from the system's universities to assess COVID-19's effects on the state. Assessments will focus on three impact groups: fiscal and economic impact, community and family resiliency, and the healthcare workforce.

The University of Illinois Press has opened up a wealth of content on multiple platforms to assist study, teaching, and research.

Administrative Information Technology Services (AITS) is assisting the state's Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) by providing subject matter expertise and data analysis skills.

Discovery Partners Institute and the Illinois Innovation Network have been asked by state public health authorities to assist in expanding testing across the state. DPI and P33 have also launched an effort to help Illinois residents who suffered job losses due to the pandemic to gain new digital skills at steeply discounted tuition rates.

The system's UI Ride shuttle service provided community access to its free WiFi for Champaign families to do schoolwork and work who otherwise would not have internet access.

University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics

UI Health hospital in ChicagoUI Health workers are on the front lines of the crisis, treating patients at it's hospital and clinics daily. Differential pay has been implemented for nurses caring for COVID-19 patients to compensate for the additional work, stress, and risk that they face. 

COVID-19 testing sites have been established at UI Health's Pilsen Family Health Center and UI Health's Mile Square Health Center

UI Health's Craniofacial Center has developed an N95 mask prototype

UI Hospital’s Dr. Cory Deburghgraeve, a staff anesthesiologist, shared stories from the front lines of treatment for a story in the Chicago Tribune. The deadly virus, he said, “can hit anyone, and it’s difficult to predict who will live and who will die.” 

See more UI Health efforts under the University of Illinois at Chicago section below.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Urbana-Champaign researchers are providing epidemiological models for the governor's office, developed in collaboration with other institutions, to show how social distancing can slow the transmission of the virus and prevent a shortage of intensive-care beds in Illinois.

Researchers at the university created their own saliva-based COVID-19 test, which will be used to conduct up to 10,000 tests per day on the campus, and the technology is being expanded to the other universities in the U of I System.

engineers working on ventilator prototypesA team led by The Grainger College of Engineering and Carle Health has produced a prototype emergency ventilator that could help ease national shortfalls and potentially save lives, as well as an alarm and sensor package for emergency ventilators.

Scientists are conducting studys to explore ways to decontaminate N95 masks for re-use, including electric multicookers, and microwave oven plasmas. 

Other teams are designing and providing Personal Protective Equipment to healthcare facilities, and the Fighting Illini head football equipment manager is managing the sanitizing and cleaning process for the pieces. A  community-wide effort to sew and prepare masks and gowns is being coordinated by the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and development of an N95 respirator is underway. 

Units across campus are also partnering with Carle Health to dramatically increase COVID-19 testing in the local community and across the state of Illinois.

Urbana-Champaign’s Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory is fabricating and packaging hand sanitizer at industrial scale to help ease shortfalls. The lab produces several hundred gallons of hand sanitizer each day, which is then shipped to the University of Illinois at Chicago for distribution. 

Urbana-Champaign alumnus Tom Siebel announced the creation of the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute, a public-private consortium focused on using artificial intelligence to solve complex problems. According to Seibel, the first goal of the institute will be to help find new ways to slow the current COVID-19 pandemic. Grainger College of Engineering Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Professor Rayadurgam Srikant will serve as co-director for the institute.

At the direction of the National Science Foundation, Urbana’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to coordinate high-performance computer time on a national level and fast-track the big data analysis that is critical to hasten new vaccines and treatments.

University of Illinois Extension is producing and collecting numerous resources to assist families and community leaders across the state coping with COVID-19.

A team of researchers in the Holonyak Micro & Nanotchnology Lab in Urbana is working on a smartphone application that would detect the novel coronavirus within 30 minutes, without the need for a diagnostic lab. Three faculty members from the lab have been awarded NSF RAPID program grants to support their efforts to develop quicker COVID-19 tests

Faculty from the College of Veterinary Medicine assisted with the rapid identification of COVID-19 as the cause of a respiratory illness affecting big cats at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo.

Krannert Center is providing a list of artists and arts organizations who are offering online content and live streaming events to bring comfort, unity, and optimism to our communities.

The university's Child Development Laboratory (CDL) is caring for children of essential, critical personnel in the community while staying connected to their regular students through technology. CDL is also providing groceries to low-income CDL families through the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

The CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studeies has teamed with the state of Illinois to produce a system of interactive maps, charts, and animations to better help undertand and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

University of Illinois at Chicago

UIC is on the front line in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and has also been chosen as the site of two leading-edge clinical trials. One is testing whether a rheumatoid arthritis drug can halt the virus’s cascade into the lungs, where its effects can be deadly. Another is testing whether an antiviral drug that was initially used against Ebola in West Africa could lead to positive outcomes for those with COVID-19. A third trial, a Remdesivir-Barcitnib combination, is now also underway.

Beginning July 9, UIC will test a vaccine for COVID-19, as part of the Moderna phase 3 clinical trial being administered by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Under an agreement with the Illinois Department of Public Health, UIC is providing the state with its expertise on the control of infectious diseases, emergency preparedness and public health. The UIC School of Public Health is playing a leading role in the response in Chicago, Cook County, and throughout the state. Their efforts include providing experts, policy briefs and projections, creating community resources, and mapping the outbreak.

Doctor helps administer COVID testIn addition to the UI Health testing sites, UIC is also helping lead efforts to screen, test, and educate Chicago's homeless population about COVID-19. And UIC is producing Virus Transport Medium, a crucial testing material for COVID-19, for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Engineers from UIC have designed a face shield made from thin plastic that can be used by medical employees treating patients with COVID-19. These alternatives to masks take 20 seconds to produce and are being manufactured at UIC’s Engineering Makerspace. The face shields are helping ease shortages of personal protective equipment at UI Health facilities in Chicago.

Researchers at UIC and Urbana-Champaign are working to increase supplies of personal protective equipment, including efforts to develop sanitizing approaches that would enable equipment reuse. And a UIC-Shakespeare Theater partnership has supplied 5,000 masks to UI Health.

UIC medical students graduated early to help meeting the growing demand for healthcare workers during the pandemic. About one-third have been matched to residency programs in the state of Illinois.

UIC is directing and/or participating in numerous outreach efforts to support the most vulnerable populations in the community. Some examples include food boxes  being supplied to COVID-19 positive patients, community kits of food, masks and sanitzer being supplied to those in need, educational resources developed in numerous languages, volunteers assisting with triaging calls from community members and reaching out to senior citizens, and masks are being provided to expectant mothers.

The School of Public Health’s Community Outreach Intervention Projects (COIP) was recently funded through a partnership with AbbVie to hire staff to promote awareness and educate high-risk neighborhoods in Chicago about prevention and risk mitigation strategies to address COVID-19.  

UIC's Electronic Visualization Laboratory began providing access to its excess computing capacity to the Folding@Home project for COVID-19 research needs.

Learn more about some of UIC's campus-wide COVID-19 efforts.

University of Illinois at Springfield

Mom at laptop at home with childUIS is sharing its expertise as a pioneer in online and distance education. At the request of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the university is serving as a go-to resource for colleges and K-12 schools across Illinois as they make their own transition to online instruction.

People across Illinois and beyond are taking part in a series of small-business webinars hosted by UIS to help owners through the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the Springfield Innovation Hub, UIS and the Community Health Roundatable are conducting a webinar series on community health with immediate focus on the impact of COVID-19.

UIS staff and students are making donations to their local communities. UIS Athletics donated drinks to healthcare professionals at Memorial Health System in Springfield, and UIS staff delivered meals to a local homeless shelter

 

These are just some of the multitudes of efforts being conducted by faculty, staff, students and our university communities to combat this global pandemic.
 

University COVID-19 sites

Our universities have created websites to keep their communities apprised of the latest communications and developments, along with answers to frequently asked questions, and contact information for additional concerns:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Illinois at Springfield
UI Health
System HR Services

Play the Turning Uncertain Into Extraordinary video below, or watch on Youtube

 

Play the Rising to the Challenge video below, or watch on Youtube

Communications

Illinois public universities seek additional federal support
Massmail: Fall semester plans
Massmail: Financial update
Virtual Town Hall
Massmail: Fall 2020 planning
President Killeen talks with WILL's The 21st
U of I System creates new, $36 million financial aid fund
Op-Ed: U of I System stands tall in fight against pandemic
Massmail: COVID-19 update: Rising to the challenge
Trustees approve procurement flexibility for COVID-19 spending
Massmail: COVID-19 reminder: keep your guard up
U of I System assisting state in COVID-19 response
Massmail: Statewide stay-at-home order
Massmail: Commencement update
Massmail: COVID-19 update
Massmail: system-wide guidelines outlined
System planning and response team established

Policies

U of I System COVID-19 policies

Signage

Urbana-Champaign
Chicago
Springfield

U of I System Offices should utilize their home campus signage. If you are in a leased space and need assistance with alternative signage, email University Relations.

Resources

System HR COVID-19 resources
Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Travel.state.gov
Coronavirus.illinois.gov
Illinois Department of Health
1.800.889.3931 or dph.sick@illinois.gov 
Chicago Department of Public Health
Champaign-Urbana Health District
Sangamon County Dept. of Public Health
Hotline: 217.321.2606

small coronavirus image

A UIC alumnus helped create this CDC image.
Read the story in the Chicago Tribune.