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ISU, Town Of Normal Prep For Student Return As COVID Cases Rise

Bone Student Center ISU seal
Emily Bollinger
Illinois State University is now requiring face coverings for people in indoor public spaces on campus such as classrooms and Bone Student Center (pictured here).

Illinois State University said Wednesday everyone on campus must wear a mask in indoor public spaces. The directive comes as the CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health issued new guidance to respond to the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The CDC currently designates McLean County as having substantial transmission of the virus, based on increases in COVID-19 cases and emergency room visits from people with COVID-like illness.

ISU also said in a campus update that faculty, staff, and students can upload images of their vaccine cards to the Student Health Services website. That will constitute proof of vaccination. Those without such proof will have to test for the virus once per week.

ISU President Terri Goss Kinzy said being a responsible Redbird includes taking measures to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

"Vaccination is the best path forward," she said. "As a biomedical scientist who, for decades, has studied aspects of the process underlying the new COVID vaccines, I support the scientific evidence that COVID vaccination is the most effective strategy to keeping our community healthy."

So far, ISU has not imposed a requirement that faculty staff and students take the vaccine to be on campus, though the University of Illinois has done so and the Illinois Board of Higher Education strongly recommends that measure.

Town of Normal prepares

Meanwhile, the city manager of Normal said the community does not want to risk losing what has been regained as part of the pandemic recovery if the Delta variant continues to be an issue.

Pam Reece said the Delta variant does concern her.

"We have a neighborhood action team that has been working closely with Illinois State, but also with some of the larger multi-family housing complexes like Young America and the like to figure out what we can do to post reminders, help educate students of the risk, and remind them of what can happen," said Reece.

Reece said the town is talking with ISU before students come back in a couple weeks to plan increased education efforts, and to game out possible responses if COVID cases continue to rise. She said previous mitigation measures could return.

"A couple of steps in terms of the special ordinances we did adopt were in partnership with Illinois State University to address specific issues. For example, the gathering size in multiple family areas was to limit the size of parties and gatherings," said Reece.

Reece said she would be surprised if the mayor and council went for a mask mandate such as the one imposed by in St. Louis, and now by Illinois State University. She said community measures that are not part of the statewide plan would likely have to involve the City of Bloomington for the Normal Town Council to find them acceptable.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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