One Year of COVID-19
The Maroon looks back on a strange and difficult year.

Letter from the Editors

We became editors-elect of The Maroon on February 10, 2020. One month and one day later, we helped our predecessors break the news that the University would pivot to remote instructionfor the spring quarter. The specter of COVID-19 has hung over our entire tenure, and the issue in your hand or on your screen is a product of remote collaboration.

We have not had access to our office in Ida Noyes since March 17, 2020. To produce The Maroon, the three of us became a “bubble,” and at times it’s felt like things have always been this way: a world the size of three apartments and the grocery store; the faces of our staff seen in inch-high boxes on a computer screen with the day’s news in another box beside them. It’s a strange experience to see your own life captured in a series of news articles, but that’s what thisyear has been.

We look back on this year as one of so much, and so little. Our daily routines have often felt like unending monotony, and we know we’re not the only ones to have felt the joy and intellectual community of a place like the University of Chicago muffled and compressed into a series of Zoom meetings and emails. Though losing a year of college pales in comparison to the loss of life that has resulted from the pandemic, we find ourselves experiencing a shared grief over the loss of immaterial elements of non-pandemic life. No matter its cause, grief takes up the space available to it and demands a reckoning. This issue is an account of how our worlds have changed over the past year and an attempt to record what we have lost, both big and small.

While we were putting together this issue, a copy editor currently living outside the U.S. remarked to us that this country is a singular example in its choice of consumption over lives and its dismissal of bare minimum public health requirements around travel, masking, and other mitigation measures. We’re living in a country where half a million people are dead because of the virus and almost one in three Americans have contracted COVID-19.

Through this pandemic we continued to produce a printable newspaper in digital form despite the fact that it would never actually find itself on a page. Our reporters, most of whom we haven’t seen since last winter, worked from bedrooms across the world, having to adjust to communicating across time zones and reporting on a city they were thousands of miles away from. They are nothing short of remarkable and their commitment pushed us to continue doing all we could to document this time.

This issue is a result of their perseverance. It is by and for everyone who weathered this year, whether they are affiliated with the University or not. It contains stories of learning to adapt, advice for when things feel insurmountable, and memories of those who lost their lives and livelihoods to the virus. It also has some glimpses of what our lives will look like when this comes to an end.

We are proud of our staff beyond the words we could put on this page. They have sat for hours with us on Zoom, met us for masked walks when it was far too cold to be doing so, and shared photos of their pets. They balanced their schoolwork, Maroon commitments, and caring for siblings, parents and roommates. They dropped bread on our doorsteps and sent meticulous reporting to our inboxes, and helped The Maroon tell the story of this—dare we say it?— unprecedented time. We are preparing to leave the paper to new editors-elect: three astonishingly driven and capable student journalists who have weathered this year with so muchgrace. We are so excited for them to return to the basement of Ida Noyes.

Caroline Kubzansky, managing editor
Miles Burton, editor-in-chief
Emma Dyer, editor-in-chief

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UChicago's COVID-19 Policies: March-May 2020
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March 2020
  • The Maroon breaks the news that UChicago will have an entirely remote spring quarter on March 11.
  • University of Chicago Laboratory Schools pivot to a remote spring quarter.
  • Dining halls serve the last sit-down meal service on March 16.
  • A Chicago Booth student is the first case of COVID-19 reported at UChicago on March 17.
  • University libraries close.
  • Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker issues a stay-at-home order on March 20.
  • Residence halls close on March 22.
  • The University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) enacts a universal-masking policy.
  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot closes the lakefront to facilitate Chicagoans’ social distancing.
  • University administrators announce that campus buildings will start to have restricted access regarding who may enter.
April 2020
  • UCMC taps perioperative nurses to cover staffing shortages due to COVID-19 on April 15.
  • The University announces that the 533rd convocation will not be held on campus.
  • Dining halls serve the last sit-down meal service on March 16.
  • Provost Ka Yee Lee announces that the University will not reduce tuition in response to remote learning after a month-long campaign by UChicago for Fair Tuition.
May 2020
  • The University announces it will begin resuming research activities.
  • President Robert Zimmer announces the University will lose about $220 million due to the pandemic, not including losses in the medical division.

UChicago's COVID-19 Policies: June-August 2020
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June 2020
  • The University announces that it will adopt a hybrid model for the autumn quarter, with a mix of virtual and socially distanced, in-person classes.
  • The University accepts $6.2 million of CARES Act funding to cover institutional costs and distribute financial support to students.
  • To mitigate the projected $220 million deficit, the University announces optional and mandatory staff furloughs, pay cuts for administrators, and hiring freezes.
July 2020
  • The Maroon learns that faculty will have the chance to choose between an in-person or remote format for their classes.
August 2020
  • Lee announces the UChicago Health Pact. Students must complete a COVID-19 training program and submit a form attesting to their compliance with the University’s new policies.
  • Members of the UChicago community are encouraged to urge those not adhering to COVID-19 measures to follow the UChicago Health Pact. The UChicago Forward page outlines different scenarios for dealing with students and faculty. To avoid confrontational situations, campus community members are advised to report incidents—in detail—to supervisors or to the University’s Accident/Incident Reporting System (UCAIR).
  • Lee announces testing, tracing, and isolation measures that will be in force during the school year for University members.

NCAA Overlooks Division III Athletes
The NCAA’s decision to cancel Division III winter sports begs important questions about fairness and the collegiate sports models.

UChicago's COVID-19 Policies: September-November 2020
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September 2020
  • Prior to arriving on campus for the 2020–21 academic year, students are required to complete a COVID-19 training program and submit a form attesting to their compliance with the University’s new policies.
  • Dorm room assignments—including those within apartments—are single-occupancy, and dining halls are capped at a maximum capacity of 75 percent. A meal-delivery program provides students in quarantine with their meals.
  • Snell-Hitchcock and Stony Island Hall are turned into “isolation housing.”
  • First-years move into housing for a mostly remote O-Week. Arrival testing shows two out of 910 tests positive in the first batch of 1,588 tests.
October 2020
  • The University activates three testing programs: a symptomatic testing program for those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus or are themselves experiencing symptoms, a weekly mandatory surveillance testing program for all asymptomatic members of the campus community who are living in UChicago’s residence halls, and a weekly voluntary surveillance testing program for undergraduates, faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and staff who will frequent the campus but do not live in residence halls.
  • Lee announces that winter quarter will begin a week later than scheduled for every division but the law school and says University members should expect to retain the “hybrid” model for winter and spring quarters.
November 2020
  • Students who leave campus for Thanksgiving must remain away from campus until the beginning of winter quarter.
  • The University announces a projected $150 million loss for the coming year.

Students Collect Oral History of Frontline Workers During Pandemic
Student interviews for the project were archived at Regenstein Library’s Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center.

Changing the Script on Love at UChicago
Connection at the end of the world may not be as elusive as we think.

UChicago's COVID-19 Policies: December 2020-February 2021
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December 2020
  • UCMC begins its vaccination campaign among staff.
January 2021
  • The University announces that it will open a vaccination clinic for phases 1c and 2 of the vaccine rollout.
February 2021
  • The University announces it has removed several students from their housing in Campus North. In general, COVID-19 related offenses are categorized based on location (housing or dining halls) and whether students live on campus. Depending on the severity and frequency of the offenses, consequences range from written warnings to expulsion.
  • UChicago Forward’s FAQ page states, “Ignoring the public health risks associated with gatherings, as well as serious violations of other requirements, will have consequences for individual students and their groups—whether they are part of an RSO or other type of group (including off-campus Greek organizations). Violating the requirements in the attestation could result in severe disciplinary action, including but not limited to suspension of access to campus.”
  • The University announces that the 534th Convocation will be mostly remote, with a socially distant, in-person diploma ceremony tentatively planned.
  • The University vaccinates almost 900 people against COVID-19 as part of phase 1b of the City’s immunization program.

Public School During a Pandemic: CPS’ Rocky Year
CPS’ plan to resume in-person instruction comes after nearly a year of online learning.

Elderly Folks Show Resilience, Maintain Regular Social Interactions During Pandemic, Study Finds
The research study initially hoped to compare the elderly’s mental wellness in the pandemic with that in 2015.