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April 1, 2020

Live Updates: Coronavirus Updates from UChicago, Hyde Park, and the City of Chicago


A misty day on a seemingly empty main quad, during UChicago's spring break in 2020, after many students had departed from campus.

Lee Harris / The Chicago Maroon

Last updated: 4/20/20 at 11:01 a.m. CDT

Editors’​ Note: The Maroon has created this live blog to share important updates on UChicago and Hyde Park’s responses to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well as updates from the City of Chicago, sourcing from both The Maroon’s own coverage and from other news outlets.

This live blog, which is running alongside The Maroon’s ongoing news coverage of the pandemic and its effects on the community, is starting off with a round-up of news from the first and second weeks of extended spring break. This page will be updated on an ongoing basis during the COVID-19 pandemic, and news reporters will be providing full coverage of many of these updates in the coming days and weeks.

Additional information about the response to the coronavirus can be submitted using The Maroon’s News Tips page or by contacting news@chicagomaroon.com.

 

Friday, April 17

  • Illinois Governer J.B. Pritzker said in a press conference that Illinois schools will not reopen during the current school year.

 

Thursday, April 16

  • A leaked video conference from the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) showed that a clinical trial at the hospital of remdesivir, a medicine from Gilead Sciences being used to combat COVID-19, has been successful. STAT News, a health publication affiliated with the Boston Globe, obtained the video, which quotes UCMC specialist Kathleen Mullane as saying that "most of our patients [in the trial] have already been discharged," although she also indicated that they can’t draw a lot of conclusions yet.

Both Gilead and UCMC, when reached for comment by STAT, indicated that it is still too early to draw defined conclusions from the study. But the report had implications for world markets: CNBC reported that the news helped bump up the major stock indexes and Gilead’s own stock.

 

Wednesday, April 15

  • University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) nurses began taking rotations in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in order to care for COVID-19 patients, according to ICU-specialist nurses and nurses preparing to return to the unit. Read The Maroon’s full coverage here.
  • The University’s Summer Session classes will be held remotely, and there will be no residential component to the program, the University announced by email. Full coverage coming soon.

 

Tuesday, April 14

  • The Maroon uncovered that the University of Chicago was awarded $6,207,010 from the Department of Education to offset expenses incurred in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the full story here.

 

Monday, April 13

  • The University will not raise the combined total of tuition, housing, and other miscellaneous fees for the 2020–2021 academic year, Provost Ka Yee Lee and Dean of the College John Boyer announced in an email to students and their families in the College. The email also said that the University will continue financial aid programs, like the No Barriers program, but did not release the finalized cost distribution for students in the College.

Instituting a tuition freeze meets one of the five demands of student group UChicago for Fair Tuition (UCFT), which for the past two weeks has advocated for a 50% reduction in all costs for students in the College regardless of their financial aid status.

Read The Maroon's full coverage here.

“We recognize the extraordinary financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and hope these funds can help businesses stay afloat and eventually reopen their doors,” Vice President for Civic Engagement and External Affairs Derek Douglas said in a news release.

The University said that it awarded $112,000 toward April rent relief and $110,000 as “operating grants.”

One grantee: the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore, which is a key bookseller for the University community and had been running a crowdfunding campaign to support its operations.

  • UChicago Study Abroad has told recipients of summer travel grants that they can choose to defer the grant to summer 2021.

 

Sunday, April 12

  • During a question and answer session over Zoom the previous week, Dr. Emily Landon said that the University of Chicago Medical Center is now treating approximately 100 patients with COVID-19; the hospital is preparing for a continuing rise of coronavirus cases. Read The Maroon’s full coverage here.

 

Friday, April 10

  • Block Club Chicago reported that Mac Properties is requiring tenants who request assistance because of the COVID-19 crisis to sign a nondisclosure agreement and to not “disparage” the company. At the beginning of the month, many Mac renters began a rent strike, calling for Mac Properties to agree to halting evictions and canceling rent for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Tuesday, April 7

  • The University will freeze most salaries for the upcoming academic year and slow the hiring of new faculty due to the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Zimmer announced in an email to University staff and students.

Zimmer also said that the university will continue to meet its financial aid commitments to students, and said that senior administrators—including the president, provost and vice presidents—will “make a significant new personal financial commitment” to the Odyssey Scholars financial aid program. Read The Maroon’s full coverage here.

  • President Zimmer and Provost Lee announced in an email to the student body that covocation for the Class of 2020 is cancelled. There will be a virtual convocation instead, and the email invited the Class of 2020 to participate in the Class of 2021’s convocation.

 

Monday, April 6

 

Sunday, April 5

  • Charles Thomas was deemed ineligible for bond release at a hearing on Friday, April 3, despite having developed COVID-19 symptoms while incarcerated in Cook County Jail, according to his father, Wendell Thomas. 

Inside Illinois jails, the outbreak of COVID-19 has been acute. In Cook County jail, 210 inmates have tested positive as of April 4, according to NBC Chicago. Read The Maroon’s full coverage here.

  • Students in the Class of 2020 will receive a half-tuition one-year scholarship, courtesy of the College, if they are accepted into one of a large selection of UChicago masters degree programs. According to an email by Dean John Boyer sent to the class, those programs will also have an extended application deadline, May 1, and will have “waivers for standardized testing requirements.”

“In these challenging times, the College is investing in you and providing this support in direct response to the COVID pandemic,” Boyer wrote. The full list of UChicago master’s programs covered, which include both liberal arts and professional degrees, can be viewed here.

 

Friday, April 3

  • The College is expanding the availability of pass/fail grading spring quarter in response to students’ varied distance learning situations as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, according to an email sent today to students by Dean John Boyer and Dean Jay Ellison. The policy is being expanded to cover Core requirements, and departments and programs are being asked to implement pass/fail policies for major and minor requirements. Read The Maroon’s full coverage here.

 

Thursday, April 2

  • UChicago and University-affiliated institutions are joining two new research initiatives combatting COVID-19, the University’s news office announced.

Researchers at the University are among those joining the new N95DECON consortium, which “seeks to review, collate, publish, and disseminate scientific information about N95 [face mask] decontamination to help in decisions about N95 decontamination and reuse,” according to the consortium’s website. N95 masks have been critically needed by hospitals dealing with COVID-19 cases.

Additionally, particle accelerators and supercomputers at Argonne National Laboratory, which is affiliated with the University, will be using X-rays and computing power to continue modeling the virus and possible drug targets.

  • The University of Chicago Library will be gaining temporary access to the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service program, which will allow patrons to “access to digitized books that are still in copyright if the Library holds a copy in print,” according to an announcement on the library’s website. The library’s physical buildings have been closed indefinitely because of the Illinois stay-at-home order. 

 

Wednesday, April 1

  • Hyde Park residents—UChicago students among them—began a rent strike April 1 in response to the economic difficulties imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The call for a rent strike is part of movements across the country calling on governments to freeze rent payments. Read The Maroons full coverage here.

 

Tuesday, March 31

  • Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker announced that Illinois’s stay-at-home order, which was meant to take effect through April 7, will now be in effect through the entire month of April.
  • Career Advancement announced by email that their Micro-Metcalf Program, which connects students with remote internships, will now also allow students to take on remote roles similar to some campus roles. These "Campus Projects" include teaching or research assistants, as well as project coordinators for campus operations and roles at the IT Services Virtual Help Desk. Students can apply through a questionnaire and a Handshake listing and those participating will be paid a $2,000 stipend.

 

Monday, March 30

  • Starting on March 31 at 5 p.m., academic and administrative buildings on campus “will move from general key card access to secure key card access, whereby only those individuals deemed essential personnel who must be on campus will be able to access the facility,” Provost Ka Yee Lee wrote in an email to the University community. “Each unit has previously compiled a list of essential personnel whose key cards (University IDs) will now be the only cards that can unlock doors.”

Deans can request that certain instructors be allowed to access academic buildings “on a very limited case-by-case basis and for teaching purposes only.”

The decision, she wrote, is meant to further slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of illness for “those who must come to campus, including our front-line healthcare workers.” Read the full message here.

  • Alumni Weekend, originally planned for June 4–7, has been postponed, according to an email sent out by Colin Hennessy, Executive Director of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving. He emphasized that the weekend will still occur on another, still undetermined date.
    Hennessy added that Giving Day, a major fundraising day for the University, will also be postponed; it was originally scheduled for April 7–8.

 

Saturday, March 28

  • Law School dean Tom Miles informed the Law School community that three of its members have tested positive for COVID-19. The Law School has also indicated that for spring quarter, it plans to keep its “status quo” grading system. Read The Maroon’s full coverage here.
  • University president Robert Zimmer announced by email that the University is launching three new programs in the coming days to help the South Side community weather the “personal and financial challenges and emergencies from the COVID-19 pandemic.” The programs include a meal service, local business and nonprofit support, and UChicago Medicine response funds. Read The Maroon’s full coverage here.

 

Friday, March 27

  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grant, which will provide $1,000 to Chicago residents needing assistance with rent, the Chicago Tribune reported.
  • The Seminary Co-Op, a nonprofit bookstore that has been a staple in the Hyde Park community for decades and is a UChicago textbook seller, began calling for donations to sustain the bookstore.

“While your support of our stores through online purchasing has been tremendously helpful and heartening, it simply isn’t enough to ensure we can meet our immediate expenses, including payroll and publisher bills,” Director Jeff Deutsch wrote in a GoFundMe post. The group had already closed its two stores to the public but continues to sell books online.

 

Thursday, March 26

  • The Sophy, a luxury hotel on 53rd and Dorchester, announced that it would be opening up its rooms to staff from the University of Chicago Medical Center free of charge through April 17, according to Block Club Chicago. “The UChicago Medicine staff including doctors and nurses will be able to rest and restore at SOPHY between shifts,” the hotel wrote in an announcement on their website. Block Club reported that current guests will be rerouted to Harper Court’s Hyatt Place.
  • Famed architect Michael Sorkin (A.B. ’69), who served as director emeritus of the City College of New York’s graduate urban design program, passed away at 71 from complications due to COVID-19. Sorkin was known for his designs for sustainable cities and had received multiple architecture awards and fellowships. He also edited for The Chicago Maroon and founded the paper’s Grey City supplement.

Editors’ Note: We hope to follow up in the coming weeks with an obituary memorializing Sorkin’s life and work. We ask anyone who has memories they want to share about Sorkin to please contact us at news@chicagomaroon.com.

  • Teaching assistants in the math department who had lost their roles for spring quarter were offered paid roles as “Math Tutors” that they could perform virtually, according to an email sent out by the department.
  • The University of Chicago Medical Center announced in a press briefing that it was, as of March 27, treating 50 cases of COVID-19. The hospital is requiring all staff members to wear masks and is bringing back furloughed, asymptomatic employees. Read The Maroon’s full coverage here.
  • UChicago announced that it has joined the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute, a consortium that will be trying to use AI to solve crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The group is supported by multiple universities, software company C3.ai, and Microsoft.
  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that the Chicago lakefront, which includes areas near campus that are popular with students and Hyde Park residents alike, will be closed to enforce social distancing. Hyde Park and Kenwood city representatives supported the decision. Read The Maroon’s full coverage here.

 

Wednesday, March 25

  • In a joint email to the entire University community, Provost Ka Yee Lee and Kenneth Polonsky, Executive Vice President of the University for Biology and Medicine, wrote that “we are entering a critical next phase in which Chicago is expected to experience significantly higher rates of infection and rising need for medical care.” They called for remaining at home if possible, helping UChicago Medicine focus its efforts on the “sickest and most vulnerable” who need to be tested and helped, and to use judgment on whether an individual should go to the hospital or not. Read the full message here.

 

Tuesday, March 24

  • In an email sent to faculty, which was shared on Twitter, Provost Ka Yee Lee announced that tenure-track professors who are facing interruptions to their research can choose to have another year before they are reviewed for tenure. UChicago’s move is similar to those taken by some other universities.

 

Monday, March 23

  • The Student Services Fee, which helps support student activities and wellness, and usually costs $446 per quarter, has been reduced “to a flat $125 rate for the Spring Quarter,” Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen wrote in an email to UChicago students. Those who are residing over 50 miles from Hyde Park will not be charged at all.

 

Sunday, March 22

  • In light of the U.S. State Department’s Level 4 advisory calling for avoiding international travel, the University is calling on students, staff, faculty, and others to try to return to the United States if they are abroad, Provost Ka Yee Lee wrote in an email to the University community. “Especially in light of the new State Department guidance, the University’s ability to provide assistance to travelers who wish to return home is limited,” Lee wrote.
  • The UChicago Labor Council, a coalition of University-affiliated unions that has been advancing a set of labor demands related to the COVID-19 crisis, wrote on Twitter that they heard “all union employees at the UChicago Medical Center will receive the same time off benefits as staff RNs.”

 

Saturday, March 21

  • According to an email sent out by Housing and Residence Life to residents of Burton-Judson (B-J) Courts, a resident of B-J tested positive for COVID-19. Residents in close contact with the individual were contacted, but UChicago Medicine experts “determined that other residents of Burton-Judson Courts do not need to take additional precautions, nor do other members of the College community.”
  • The University of Chicago Medical Center formally began calling for donations of personal protective equipment (PPE), including N-95 face masks and disinfectant wipes, for their personnel. On March 23, the hospital made an urgent call and ran a donation drive that day. The hospital offers more tips on how to donate here.

 

Oren Oppenheim, Justin Smith, Elaine Chen, Caroline Kubzansky, Deepti Sailappan, Adyant Kanakamedala, Ruby Rorty, Miles Burton, Alexis Florence, Carl Sacklen, and Tony Brooks contributed reporting.

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