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University of Illinois Springfield
 junior Lexi Dhamrait of Springfield was in New Orleans with UIS administrator Mark Dochterman on an annual spring break service trip when they got word from the university system that in-person classes were canceled for the rest of the semester.

Focused on running the trip and doing their service projects, Dhamrait was aware of all the news about the coronavirus — the NBA season getting canceled, the stock market crashing and cases of COVID-19 popping up across the country — but didn’t grasp the seriousness of the situation.

“It wasn’t reckless because we didn’t know too much, so in our minds, it was still safe for us to do what we were doing,” Dhamrait said.

A year later, many students are back on campus and in the classroom, but life on campus is quiet. Most classes and campus activities are virtual. Everyone must wear a mask. Anyone coming to campus must take a COVID-19 salvia test and those who are on campus more than once a week must be tested twice. Even with all the restrictions, students have adapted.

“Those who really want to be here have followed the regulations as they are,” said Student Government Association President Aislinn Diaz, a junior from Chicago.

Diaz said the salvia testing, which students are now required to do twice a week, was the “biggest win” for UIS this year because it gives students more peace of mind they are living and learning in a safe environment.

“A lot of universities were in reactive mode, where we’ve been able to be proactive,” said interim Chancellor Karen Whitney, who came to UIS last summer.

The University of Illinois developed its own salvia test which is deployed on all three campuses and required of anyone who is on campus. Whitney said the strict testing procedure has allowed them to continue operations as normally as possible, even when other universities around the country shut their doors or tried to carry on normally without testing.

In August, UIS brought students back to campus with little incident.

This article was published in The State Journal-Register on March 14, 2021.

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