09102020 loca empty cafe

The empty Courtyard Cafe at the Illini Union on UI campus in Urbana on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. 

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URBANA — Citing the more contagious variant of COVID-19, University of Illinois Chancellor Jones is asking students to participate only in essential activities until Feb. 8.

After a secondary spike in cases in the fall, the Urbana administration made a similar request to students.

“Our Shield team predicts an increase in COVID-19 cases as we repopulate the campus. We also expect to see the highly contagious B117 variant enter our community. This variant of the virus appears to spread 50 percent faster than any other strains,” Jones wrote in a mass email. “It has already caused the UK to go into lockdown and has already been detected in our state. In the next several weeks it is absolutely critical that we work together to maximize the safety of our entire community.”

Essential activities include buying groceries, attending classes and religious services and taking COVID-19 tests, Jones said, who added that the Feb. 8 end date is tentative.

“The target date for lifting essential activities only is Monday, Feb. 8 but it could be sooner or later depending on what the data show about virus spread,” Jones said.

He said the steps taken in the fall helped “prevent any more spikes the rest of the semester,” though cases rose again in November, which prompted Jones ask students then to take extra precautions.

UI students are returning to Champaign-Urbana this week, and need to get tested twice before they’re allowed into campus buildings.

In addition to possible dismissal for not getting tested regularly, Jones said that “this semester, students who are out of compliance may also lose access to university Wi-Fi, Zoom, Compass and other technologies.”

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