COVID-19 Protocols Shift as Pandemic Concerns Continue to Decline

Measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 continue to become less strict as recent data shows Cook County at low-risk.

Loyola has shifted protocols regarding COVID-19 on campus in adherence with low risk levels throughout Chicago, according to recent data reported by the City of Chicago.

In early January 2022, the average number of daily laboratory-confirmed cases was 6,125. This past January, that number was 373, according to the City of Chicago

“We are continuing to see COVID cases and continuing to get reports through our reporting line,” Joan Holden, director of the Loyola Wellness Center, said.

The successes of lessening the impact of COVID-19 on the Loyola community can largely be attributed to the protocols put in place during the height of the pandemic, according to Holden.

“Mandating the vaccine and booster were most pivotal in getting us to where we are right now,” Holden said. 

The university began its comprehensive surveillance testing program in 2021 across all three Chicagoland campuses, according to Loyola’s website. The university announced on May 23 that students could stop participating in the COVID-19 surveillance testing program if their vaccine record was uploaded and approved.

Currently, with the Chicago community’s low-risk status, testing has shown little indication of any drastic increases in community COVID-19 levels. Lower risk levels have led to shifts in protocol around Cook County, according to the Center for Disease Control, as well as within the Loyola community.

“We are now allowing students to isolate in place rather than automatically having to go to St. Louis Hall,” Holden said. “As long as roommates consent to having people isolate, they are now able to do it that way.”

If students test positive for COVID-19, they’re now only required to report their case to the university and self-isolate, according to Holden. A student’s ID will be deactivated for their entire isolation period, and they are not permitted to leave their residence hall or appear on campus whatsoever during the five day isolation period, according to the protocol outlined on Loyola’s website.

“Viruses come and go, you sort of see an increase in accordance with peoples’ behavior,” Holden said. “Right now it is flu season too, so we are seeing more flu this month than last.”

Mariana Vargas, a first-year majoring in economics, has worked as an event coordinator in Damen Student Center for the past year. She mentioned how normal things have felt on campus this year. 

“They took the sneeze guards down at the end of last semester,” Vargas said. “And since I’ve worked here there haven’t been many protocols in place. It’s been pretty normal.”

While COVID-19 concerns continue to decline throughout Chicago, the university still encourages students to be considerate of their peers and to protect themselves as well as those around them, according to Holden. 

“We pulled a lot of different levers in order to minimize exposure on our campus community, it wasn’t just the vaccine and boosters but all of the measures together,” Holden said. “Of course we always encourage students to wash their hands and continue to keep themselves and others safe.”

Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix

Grace Mooney

Grace Mooney