Photography

Campus life under the shadow of a pandemic

On Aug. 24, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign began its fall semester under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. It is an unprecedented challenge for a 153-year-old public university with more than 52,000 students. To operate safely, Urbana-Champaign is relying on an innovative test its researchers developed to detect the novel coronavirus in samples of saliva. Through Sept. 19, the university had administered nearly 350,000 tests to students, faculty and staff — one of the most aggressive public health surveillance efforts in the country.

Charles Ledford

Rick Pierce tapes a social distancing marker to the floor of a classroom in Gregory Hall on Aug. 15 before the start of the fall semester.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford

Karina Bolet, a business major from Crystal Lake, Ill., provides a saliva sample for a coronavirus test on Aug. 17.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford

Anna Hylbert, a sophomore from Cissna Park, Ill., who is majoring in aeronautical engineering, provides a saliva sample.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford

The frequent testing is meant to help the university spot potential outbreaks as early as possible. Cases surged soon after the semester started but then ebbed as university officials pleaded with students to follow health rules. Getting college students to maintain social distance and wear masks can be difficult, many schools have learned, especially at off-campus parties.

Charles Ledford

Hours after a university notification to limit in-person interactions to the most essential activities, the Illini Pub Cycle, packed with students, makes its way through the Campustown business district in Urbana, Ill., on Sept. 2.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford

Noah Legenski, a senior majoring in technical systems management, checks the covid-19 status of Kevin Regan, a senior majoring in finance, before allowing him into a party off campus on Aug. 22.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford

Students play basketball on a Champaign Park District court on campus six days after fall classes began Aug. 30. The university had removed baskets from its own courts before the beginning of the semester. Four days after this picture was taken, rims came off the public baskets, too.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford

Signs on the main quad advertise social distancing on Aug. 31. Students pay little attention to them.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford

Four weeks into the semester, officials said a key measure was headed in the right direction. The positivity rate — the share of daily tests that yield unique new cases of the coronavirus — had fallen to 0.31 percent by Sept. 19. The rate had peaked at a worrisome 2.86 percent after the first week of classes. The university is continuing with a mix of teaching methods, in person and online, and it is using isolation rooms to shelter students who have the virus.

Charles Ledford

Sophia Byrd, Caroline McKinzie and Logan Piker take a selfie with their new masks designed for singing on Sept. 1.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford

Noah Livingston, who is pursuing a master’s in flute performance, practices with other members of the Wind Symphony in the campus’s Harding Band Building on Sept. 15.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford

A young man retrieves groceries from the porch of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity on campus on Sept. 15. The fraternity was suspended by campus administrators after hosting a large party early in the fall semester.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford

As Gavin Lancaster, a sophomore from Mount Sterling, Ill., moves out of Lundgren residence hall on Sept. 11, a janitor removes trash from the building where some students are in quarantine.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford

Robert Jones, chancellor of the university, said guidance for undergraduates boils down to eight words: “No parties. Small, safe gatherings only. Smart decisions.” The last day of face-to-face instruction will come on Nov. 20. Then, after the Thanksgiving break, Illinois will finish the semester remotely. Final exams end Dec. 18.

Charles Ledford

The movie “Black Panther” is screened at Memorial Stadium in front of a couple hundred people, mostly students, on Sept. 18.

Charles Ledford

Charles Ledford