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ISU drops vaccine requirement; IWU will mandate boosters

People wearing masks seated for graduation ceremony
Emily Bollinger
Illinois Wesleyan University says it will still require COVID vaccinations for students this fall.

Days after Gov. JB Pritzker announced COVID vaccines will no longer be required on college campuses, Illinois State University informed students, faculty and staff it has dropped the requirement, while Illinois Wesleyan University plans to keep its vaccine mandate in place.

Karla Carney-Hall, IWU’s vice president of student affairs and dean of students, said the university will require all students to be fully vaccinated, including the booster, by Aug. 1. The university said in a message to the campus community that unvaccinated students will need to provide a medical or religious exemption.

Karla Carney-Hall portrait
Illinois Wesleyan University
Karla Carney-Hall

“The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and community medical experts highly recommend the booster for COVID as the best way to reduce serious illness from COVID-19, since COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness declines over time, and boosters provide additional protection,” the university said in a campus COVID update on June 29. “Furthermore, recent studies show that the booster reduces many of the serious long-term physical effects of COVID."

IWU faculty and staff are not required to receive a COVID booster, but university spokesperson Julia Perez said those vaccines are "highly encouraged."

"It is required for students due to their close residential environment," Perez said.

Illinois State University said in a message to the campus community that it will continue to have asymptomatic COVID testing available through July 29, but the university will not offer paid release time for employees to take a voluntary test. ISU said it will announce post-July 29 testing options at a later date.

ISU noted that the vaccine requirement remains in place for workers in health care settings and for students and staff at its lab schools, Thomas Metcalf School and University High School, because all K-12 schools are still subject to the state requirement. Anyone who doesn’t follow the requirement must produce a negative COVID test each week.

Heartland Community College also rescinded its vaccine requirement, except for students and personnel at its child development lab and in certain health care settings.

Pritzker modified an executive order on Wednesday that also dropped the vaccine requirement for emergency services personnel.

McLean County falls to medium

McLean County dropped from high to medium level of COVID community spread on Friday, based on weekly data compiled by the CDC.

In areas where community level is medium, the CDC recommends high-risk populations wear masks in indoor public places.

New hospitalizations dropped over the last week to 9.8 per 100,000 residents, while new reported cases rose slightly to 424. Young adults made up the largest share of new cases.

DeWitt, Ford and Piatt counties also are at medium level, while Livingston, Logan and Tazewell counties are at high level and Woodford County is low.

There have been 381 COVID-related deaths in McLean County since the start of the pandemic.

The county’s seven-day testing positivity rate dropped to just below 25%.

McLean County’s rate of fully vaccinated is 63%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The state rate is 65.2%.

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Corrected: July 19, 2022 at 12:40 PM CDT
This story has been corrected to indicate IWU does not require faculty and staff to receive a COVID booster, but initial doses remain a requirement.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.