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COVID-19/ Coronavirus Community Update



As Fall quarter gets underway, and the number of new COVID-19 cases remain a national concern, we wanted to reiterate our commitment to the safety of our students, staff, and faculty. Learn more below.


As Fall quarter gets underway, and the number of new COVID-19 cases remain a national concern,  ICO continues to monitor and adhere to CDC, IDPH and CDPH guidance to reduce the possible transmission of the virus.  It is important that you know the steps that ICO takes in the event that we are notified of an individual testing positive for COVID-19 or indicating that they have been exposed to the virus. 

What guidelines and best practices do we follow? 

ICO follows the CDC guidelines for Return to Work Criteria for Healthcare Personnel. Since ICO operates a public serving clinic, we are considered healthcare personnel (HCP) for the purposes of COVID. 

If an employee or student is confirmed positive through a test and has recently been on-campus: 

ICO uses the CDC Symptom-based strategy for determining when the individual can return to campus.  Per CDC guidance: 

HCP with mild to moderate illness who are not severely immunocompromised: 

• At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared and 

• At least 24 hours have passed since last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and 

• Symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) have improved 


If an employee or student may have been exposed at ICO by a colleague, student, patient or visitor: 

ICO follows CDC guidelines for potential exposures. We begin by fact-finding to gauge the kind of potential exposure the individual experienced (what were they doing, where, duration of contact, proximity to others, were the individuals wearing masks, etc.) 

If there has been a potential exposure, the individual will be asked to quarantine for 14 days and remain off-campus, or in a quarantine area of the RC.  We will observe the full 14-day quarantine regardless of a negative test result during this time, per CDC guidelines. 

ICO Contact Tracing 

As part of our process, ICO utilizes contact tracing to ensure that anyone who may have been potentially exposed to a confirmed by test case or potential symptomatic COVID case. The individual is asked to inform us of when they first came symptomatic or tested positive. Guidance indicates that the 48 hours immediately preceding are the most critical. Anyone with sustained contact with the individual are then assessed for their own potential exposure. If an individual has been identified as potentially exposed, ICO will notify them of the exposure. Based on the level of exposure, instructions will be given about the next steps that they should take and if quarantine is appropriate. This is done on a case by case basis, using the information made available to us, and our response will err on the side of being overly cautious. 


How do we evaluate potential exposures? 


What is quarantine vs isolation? 

The CDC defines the terms in this way: “Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.” 

Persons in quarantine are confined to a particular location.  If the individual is in the RC, they are to remain in their room. Any food or needed supplies will be brought to the room.  The individual may only leave if medical attention is required.  If the individual resides off-campus, they should remain at home and avoid going out unless absolutely essential to their health. 


Will ICO identify the names of individuals: 

In compliance with the Americans With Disability Act, ICO will not publicly release the names of any individuals who have contracted or been potentially exposed.  Only those who have a need to know (direct supervisors for employees or appropriate members of the Academic program) will be provided with names so that they can keep proper records, be aware of the need for an absence and assist with any contact tracing.   ICO, and all members of our community, are expected to uphold the privacy laws governing an individual’s health record in the same way we want our own privacy maintained. 



What is considered proper wearing of masks? 

Everyone entering ICO facilities is required to wear a cloth face covering.  The mask needs to fully cover the wearer’s nose and mouth, at all times, to be effective. 

Students and employees who are engaging in patient care or clinical activities are required to wear the PPE issued to them by the clinic.  Clinical activity requires medical grade PPE due to the nature of the encounters. 

As a reminder, vented masks and bandanas are not permitted to be used as appropriate face coverings on campus as they have shown to not be effective in reducing viral transmission. 

What can I do? 

As the pandemic continues to unfold, it is critical that every member of our community do their part in keeping our community safe.  Anytime we are out in a public setting, or with another person, there is always the risk of coming in contact with the virus.  While ICO will do everything possible to limit risk on campus, each of us needs to ensure that we take personal responsibility for our own actions and choices.  Every person in our community plays a critical role in keeping our campus safe. 

  • Wear a mask anytime you are away from home. 

  • Maintain social distancing guidelines of at least six feet. 

  • Practice good hand hygiene by frequent hand washing and using hand sanitizer. 

  • Ensure that you wear your mask properly, always fully cover your nose and mouth. 

  • Remember that your mask helps to protect others, their mask helps to protect you. 

  • Remember that what you do outside of ICO matters as well. 

  • Avoid gatherings, especially indoors.  The more people gathered, the greater the risk. 

  • Limit your social circle to those who are also following safety guidelines. 

  • Think about how your decisions impact others. 


If you have tested positive, have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been informed you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, please contact: 

Michael R Butz, MBA 
Senior Director of Compliance, Risk Management and Quality Improvement 

Compliance Officer 
Privacy Officer 
Illinois College of Optometry and Illinois Eye Institute


On June 1, we slowly began to open campus. To ensure our community’s safety, many of us are still working at home, but little by little you’ll begin to see our hallways fill up with staff and faculty excited to return to campus.


Watch our most recent note from Dr. Colip dated May 26 about our transitions back to campus and a few of our end-of-the-semester initiatives.


I want to express my gratitude to all of you that have adapted to the many necessary changes and have been working diligently to maintain your studies during this pandemic. Thanks to everyone’s collective efforts, we should be able to complete this academic year with everyone on-schedule. We are currently making plans for a virtual Capstone Awards recognition on May 15 and a virtual Commencement on May 16 to recognize the accomplishments of the Class of 2020. 

Some of you may already be aware that the Governor of IL has extended the Stay-At-Home Executive Order which now requires that we also extend our planned return to more substantial campus-based activities, until June 1. 

At this time, we anticipate that the academic Summer Quarter will begin on May 18th via continued online instruction for didactic, laboratory and clinical assignments. We anticipate that students will be returning to limited campus-based activities in phases: 


  • 4th Professional Year students (Class of 2021) will return to Pt. Care on-campus and Externships on June 15.

  • Select 4th Year students may resume Pt. Care during the week of June 1st on a volunteer basis. You will be hearing more about these opportunities from the Dean’s Office soon.

  • 3rd Professional Year students (Class of 2022) will return to campus on June 15.

  • 2nd Professional Year students (Class of 2023) will return to campus as previously determined on July 13

  • Orientation for the Class of 2024 (Incoming 1st Years) remains on-schedule for Aug. 6.

At this time, we anticipate resumption of an in-person academic curriculum for fall quarter on Aug. 10. 

Returning to campus will require everyone’s participation, ideas, patience and flexibility as we prepare and assimilate to our new working environments. In order to be able to do so safely, the following will be required of everyone each day upon arrival to campus:

  • Temperature checks

  • Face coverings

  • Frequent hand washing

  • Social distancing

  • Additional protocols as needed

Of course, any and all of this is subject to change depending upon the Governor’s continued instructions. Advancing our students’ educational goals and providing needed patient care opportunities safely and with the health of everyone in mind will continue to be our priority.

I look forward to welcoming you back to campus soon.


Stay safe and stay healthy!


Mark Colip, O.D.


Everyone at ICO has been busy over the last two months working to adapt our operations to deliver online learning for our students and manage our day-to-day operations remotely during the Illinois Stay-at-Home order. Our faculty has worked diligently to ensure our students remain on track with their degree completion. This has been a priority for us to manage on behalf of our students and to provide them with one less worry. At this time, both didactic and clinical education are occurring online. This is no small feat indeed. I am proud of the creativity and diligence of our faculty for their hard work in continuing to deliver the curriculum during these challenging times. I am also proud of our students who are adapting well to these new delivery methods, including remote testing and evaluations. ICO spirit is palpable in all of these efforts as we work to navigate these constantly changing times.

Most of our ICO employees are working remotely by providing continued support to our academic and clinical teams. Through the use of Microsoft Teams, we are able to continue conducting business within the College and with our students in a timely fashion. Where needed, employees are coming to campus on staggered schedules to provide those services that cannot be handled remotely in as safe a manner as possible. We are adapting to this new situation.


The Illinois Eye Institute has continued ensuring that emergent and high risk cases are well managed by delivering services on-site, as well as by telehealth. Each day our clinicians and staff are figuring out new ways to serve the needs of our patients safely and effectively. I am truly impressed by the creativity they have shown in finding new ways to do things in order to meet the needs of our patients.


While we all hope that COVID-19 just goes away, as healthcare providers, we know that will not be the case. We continue to monitor the situation and adapt our operation as conditions warrant. At this writing, we are still under the IL Governor’s order to stay at home and not gather in groups larger than ten. Once that order is lifted, and it is deemed safe to do so, we plan to phase in our return to both patient care and instruction on campus. While we will not be able to gather in person to celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of our Class of 2020 on the scheduled date in May (that was certainly an agonizing decision that I hope to never have to make again!), we will be recognizing scholarship and award recipients and conferring their degrees on time, and we will look for a way to celebrate with them in person when it is prudent to do so.


We are grateful to all of our alumni and friends for your support and good wishes at this time. Your periodic kind words of encouragement have been greatly appreciated. We know that you are leaders in your practices and communities who have prepared well to be voices of reason, stability and evidenced-based practice to navigate these uncertain times. This pandemic is teaching us all about new ways to do things and how important adaptability is to success. I wish good health to you and your families.


Mark Colip, O.D.


Dear ICO Alumni and Friends:

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of our daily lives and the same is true for Illinois College of Optometry. While we are fortunate in having no cases reported by ICO students, faculty or staff, we know that all of our communities are touched by this pandemic and life is different now for all of us.

Keeping our students, staff and faculty safe has been paramount. As an educational institution, we are also working hard to keep our students' educational goals on-track as much as possible under these unprecedented conditions. Yesterday, I announced that we were ending all in-person lectures, laboratories and Clinicals, including Externship Program participation, for all students. We made this decision with guidance from the CDC and local Departments of Public Health. Faculty are working diligently to deliver all Lecture content via online format. They are also developing online delivery for some Laboratory and even Patient Care-type Simulations and Case Presentations. All extra-curricular activities have been suspended. These measures will continue through at least April 12. As we continue to monitor the national and local situation, we know further adjustments may be necessary.

During the week ahead, we will be scaling back patient visits in the Illinois Eye Institute to only essential and Urgent Care. We will also be transitioning employees to telecommuting where possible.

I am immensely proud of our students, faculty and staff for their focus and attention during this event. I am also thankful for an extraordinary leadership team that has been assessing and working together closely to plan and implement every aspect of our response. ICO has been in existence for 148 years and we are working hard to continue our proud traditions for many years after COVID-19 is simply a memory.

Many of you have expressed kind wishes and sincere thoughts and for those we are all grateful.   Thank you for your continued support of ICO and be assured of our best wishes for you and yours in these days, as well.


Mark Colip, O.D.



Dear Students, Staff and Faculty:


This pandemic is unprecedented. We are aware that each day seems to result in more questions than answers. I ask that everyone please be patient, flexible and professional in your interactions as we all navigate this stressful time period.


Students: As we are all aware, a lot has changed since my last communication to you on Friday evening. I now feel it is in the best interest to enhance our measures previously communicated to include suspending all in- person laboratories, examinations and patient care assignments both on and off-campus (including Externships) for  all students  to be effective at Close of Business today.  This will be effective through at least April 12. Your faculty will be in communication with you regarding continuation of learning via online format. Your student eyedoc email will be your official means of communication from the College and should be checked regularly. RC residents – your RA’s will be in communication with you.


Staff and Faculty: I would ask that at this time and during this period of rapid transition, that all staff and faculty continue to report as assigned or report your absence in the normal manner. Patient care in the Illinois Eye Institute will be transitioned towards providing only essential and Urgent Care as deemed medically necessary through at least April 12. We are working to re-align our Patient Care Teams in order to meet Patient Care demands. Further guidance will be forthcoming from your Department Head.


As I indicated previously, our primary goal is providing for the health and safety of our community.


Mark Colip, O.D.



To Students, Staff and Faculty:

We have received guidance that it is in the best interest, for the health and safety of our community, to discontinue large gatherings. Effective immediately, ICO will suspend in-person classroom/lecture instruction and all extra-curricular activities. Classroom lectures will continue via online channels during this time period. This will be in effect through at least April 5.


Dean Stephanie Messner and the faculty will be communicating additional instructions for student access to educational content during this time period. Laboratories are expected to continue as scheduled – your specific faculty will provide guidance. Examinations will continue as scheduled. Patient Care assignments will continue as scheduled. Staff and faculty will report to work according to your normal schedules. As you are likely already aware, we have been implementing additional measures to enhance safety for everyone while working in the Illinois Eye Institute.


Our primary goal is to provide for the health and safety of our community. We will continue with this as priority one while also structuring our efforts to provide for the least disruption to our students' educational goals. Stressful times such as these require everyone’s cooperation, flexibility and professionalism. We are all in this together and we will come out on the other side together.


Mark Colip, O.D.



We are all being barraged by information about COVID-19. As members of a healthcare and higher education community, we must inform ourselves with the facts. ICO encourages everyone to look only to reliable sources for such important science and health information. We are utilizing guidance from the CDC and Chicago Department of Public Health to help guide our assessments and actions.

Our first line of defense is prevention. If you or someone close to you is ill, PLEASE STAY HOME and contact your primary healthcare provider as indicated. Further guidance on reporting such illness will be forthcoming as we make our best attempt at monitoring our community closely. "Social distancing" is also recommended at this time. As healthcare providers we are all aware of the importance of basic, but vital at this time, hygiene methods.

This is a rapidly evolving and changing situation. In the days ahead, you will be receiving ongoing communications and additional guidance from various experts and leaders from within our institution and we ask that you give those communications your priority attention. In the days and weeks ahead let's do our best to temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with facts. Our goal would be to manage our pathway through this international crisis with the least impact on each of your daily lives.

We want to take this opportunity to let you know of the policies and procedures we are putting in place surrounding COVID019/Coronavirus.
Please stay home if the following applies to you:
  • Traveled outside the country in the past 3 weeks.

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sore throat

Help prevent the spread of viruses like COVID-19/Coronavirus:
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then dispose of the tissue.

  • Wash your hands frequently and use a paper towel to dry.

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Stay home when you are sick.

  • Seek medical advice from your primary care physician if you develop symptoms, and or have been in contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently been in an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19.

What We Are Doing:
  • Closely monitoring the advice and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Educating our employees and students on preventative measures provided by the CDC.

  • Increasing the frequency and extent of our cleaning practices, such as additional wipe downs of all hard surfaces including the front desk, exam rooms, offices and our lunch rooms. 

  • Providing additional resources to patients, students and employees including additional resources for proper hand washing.

  • Implementing heightened sanitation and hand-washing procedures for all employees.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19's FAQ's,

please visit the following health organizations:

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