Bradley University is looking to correct the institution's COVID-19 course with a two-week all-student quarantine period.
Currently, there are about 50 students who have tested positive for the virus, and another 500 who were already in quarantine before University President Steve Standifird made his announcement Tuesday night in an effort to tamp down on additional COVID-19 exposures.
Bradley University spokesperson Renee Charles said the raw numbers weren't the reason for that decision.
"It wasn't that we hit a certain number of positive tests, or a certain number in quarantine. It's just that exponential continued growth that we had to say, 'OK, we need to stop, we need to pause and reset our actions,'" Charles said.
Students will learn remotely for the next two weeks. The university is asking students to stay in their dorms, Greek houses, or off-campus residences for everything but some essential tasks, like picking up meals from the Michel Student Center, spending time outside while masked, going to work if cleared by their employer, and running essential errands like grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions.
The university is discouraging social gatherings, hosting guests in dorms or at off-campus residences, or drinking or eating out.
Bradley freshman Blake Thompson said most students he knows understand the need for the imposed isolation.
“It does stink to have to be in quarantine, but I think it was the right move to take because we had 50 cases and we don’t want that number to rise,” said Thompson, a bio-chemistry major from Bloomington. “I think a lot of kids on campus share that same mindset.”
Thompson lives in Lovelace Hall and noted many residents in the Singles Complex have medical conditions, and therefore comply thoroughly with health and safety precautions.
“Even before this mass quarantine took effect at Bradley, people on our floor took it very seriously,” he said.
Charles said while most people are doing the right thing, a few are not. And those few could pose a safety risk to the whole campus.
"The goal is to keep people from congregating in groups, even if they're small, and also reminding them, you have to wear a mask. You have to keep your distance. These are no longer things that we can just allow to be overlooked," she said.
Standifird said Tuesday those measures are no longer recommendations, but mandatory. Noncompliance could result in disciplinary measures up to dismissal from campus.
She said the goal of the tw0-week quarantine will allow the university to step up enforcement efforts, get everyone on the same page, and interrupt the growth in COVID-19 cases and exposures.
"This is our attempt at getting things back into line, so that we don't have to fully close the campus residentially, and go to full remote learning for everyone for the rest of the semester," said Charles.
Kathleen Kennedy, whose daughter Kolleen Branigan is a pre-med sophomore from Southlake, Texas, said she’s glad to see the administration taking decisive action to deter the spread of COVID-19.
“Honestly, I’m impressed. I think they’re doing an amazing job and they’re taking it very seriously,” said Kennedy, noting she has contacted her daughter through text messages since Standifird’s announcement.
“I’m proud. I think that the president has done an excellent job already, and my daughter knows there’s no messing around. This is not something you can play with," she said.
Kennedy said she and her daughter never had any qualms about returning to campus this fall.
“Not at all; she couldn’t wait to get back,” said Kennedy. “Were we a little nervous? I think if you’re not a little nervous, that wouldn’t be normal. But we weren’t really afraid of anything. You just have to be careful.”
Kennedy said that while in-person learning would be preferred by students like her daughter, making sure everyone is safe has to be the top priority.
“With the labs and her degree, face-to-face learning is definitely better for her,” said Kennedy. “But at the same time, she wants to make everybody safe. She wants to be a doctor, so those are her instincts.”
Thompson said transitioning to fully virtual instruction for the next two weeks has been simplified by the university already using a hybrid approach and hasn’t reduced the quality of his education.
“Obviously, I would’ve liked in-person,” he said. “But effectively, no. It’s not created a barrier where I feel I’m not learning as much as I would be if I were in person.”
Speaking to reporters at Illinois State University in Normal on Wednesday, Gov. JB Pritzker lauded Bradley University's leadership for the move.
"I think Bradley has made a wise choice for their campus. What works for them may not work for everybody else," he said. "What I know is testing is hugely imporant."
Bradley University is conducting surveillance testing through its health center. A random sample of around 250 students, faculty, and staff currently on campus are selected each week to undergo testing.
The quarantine ends Sept. 23.
WGLT's Eric Stock contributed to this report.
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