FAQs from October 22 Fall 2020 Briefing

Questions and Answers from the Oct. 22 Fall Briefing with Chancellor Whitney

FAQs with Guest Speaker Rajesh Govindaiah, MD

Memorial Health System Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer

Q. Can you remind us how the virus spreads, and why masks, social distancing and hand hygiene are critical strategies to help avoid infection?
A. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus and transmitted through respiratory secretions. Masks help protect you from inhaling others’ respiratory droplets and help from spreading your own respiratory droplets. Good hand hygiene prevents spreading the virus from touching contaminated surfaces and then your eyes, nose or mouth.

Q. What does it mean to be a close contact?
A. This means you are less than 6 feet of another person for more than 15 minutes. This could be in one instance, or possibly cumulatively, based on new information. Wearing personal protective equipment, such as a mask, reduces risk. We’re seeing that most exposure is happening in community settings, such as eating with or socializing with others.

Q. What can you tell us about risk of infection for “contacts of a contact”?
A. Typically an individual who has been in contact with a “close contact” of an infected individual doesn’t need to quarantine. It takes about 72 hours after exposure to develop the virus (incubation), become contagious and be able to spread the virus. It’s why quarantine is so important, because the “close contact” is separated before they become contagious. This limits the likelihood of contracting the virus if you are a contact of a “close contact.”

Q. What does the science say about the immunity of a person who had COVID? Could you get COVID more than once?
A. Immunity is complex. There are two types: antibody and cells. You have to be exposed to virus proteins so the body knows what to look for, either through exposure or vaccination. We are still learning what immunity looks like for COVID-19, so we encourage everyone to maintain safety precautions such as mask wearing, hand washing, etc., even if they have previously tested positive.

Q. What are you seeing in our local community regarding infection rates?
A. We are seeing our highest community rate thus far, and we have the highest number of cases in the hospital now.

Q. How should we approach holiday gatherings?
A. Large gatherings are worrisome for transmitting the virus, because we are not sure who our family members have been in contact with in the past 14 days. You’ll have to weigh the risk of those you could possibly expose and their risk factors.

Q. What do we know about possible plans for vaccine disbursement?
A. Vaccines are being handled federally, and they will be distributed to the state, and then to the local health departments based on population. Likely, the high-risk populations will be prioritized when the vaccine is available. First responders and healthcare workers are also high priority. We could possibly see vaccinations for adults early next calendar year.

Q. Is getting a flu vaccine important this year?
A. Yes. Symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are very similar, so if you get your flu shot and you have symptoms, it could be easier to narrow your diagnosis. It also protects you from the potentially serious symptoms of contracting the flu.

Important Announcements

  • The University was a victim of an email phishing scheme that solicited personal information from students and employees for COVID relief funds. If you provided any personal information in response to this phishing attempt, please call UIS Police: 217-206-6690
  • We also have been dealing with the Illinois Department of Employment Security breach. If you receive any communication from IDES as thought someone has filed unemployment in your name, please contact Human Resources immediately.
  • More flu shot clinic dates will be announced soon. Watch Campus Announcements for more info.

This week’s UIS COVID Response Super Star:
Melissa Mlynski and the HR team

This team authored and implemented the Return to On-Site Work guidance and played a huge role in the Return to the Prairie Plan. Melissa and her staff have been at the forefront of ensuring that we continue to collaborate and engage the many important groups that comprise our shared governance at UIS, spending hundreds of hours addressing and solving items of concerns from employees. The HR team continues to track who is working on campus and who is remote and are now playing a central role in ensuring compliance with our COVID testing program. The team has presented a very professional, compassionate and thoughtful approach during a very difficult time for all employees and their families.

With all this on HR’s plate, they still continue to lead the university’s programs and efforts to hire employees, assist those retiring or leaving the university, handle grievances, manage policies, oversee benefits and leave, performance evaluations, conduct job audits, assist with search committees, assist with employee recognition, and coordinate and foster in new university policies and procedures. Much of their work is done behind the scenes, but a huge thank you to them is in order.