Slower Pace Of New Cases As ISU’s Student Vaccination Rate Hits 65%
About 63 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at Illinois State University in the past week — about one-third the number of cases on campus at this time a year ago.
Illinois State University restored its COVID data dashboard Monday. It shows 63 new positive cases in the past week, though it doesn’t break down that number among students, faculty, and staff. The fall semester began Aug. 16.
By contrast, during the first week of the fall 2020 semester, there already were 186 positive student cases reported, according to a WGLT tally. That back-to-school outbreak ultimately worsened during the second week of the semester, and ISU reported around 1,300 cases by the end of the first month of the fall 2020 term.
Of course, the big difference this fall is that there is a vaccine. ISU is requiring the vaccine for students, although they can opt out if they get tested every week.
As of Monday, 65% of students have provided proof of vaccinations, ISU reported. That’s up from 61% a week ago. The vaccination rate also is higher for students living on campus (77%) and employees (83%). The countywide average is 51.7%.
Speaking Tuesday on WGLT’s Sound Ideas, ISU President Terri Goss Kinzy said people are so excited to be back on campus for the fall semester that they are extremely compliant with masks and are asking the right questions about safety. She said vaccination numbers continue to go up, and the university has sent out the first batch of non-compliance messages for those unvaccinated people who didn't get tested last week.
“And the response has been amazing. We had almost 1,000 people get tested on Monday morning,” Kinzy said.
Testing is widely available on the ISU campus.
This week the FDA issued its first full approval of a COVID vaccine (the one made by Pfizer). That full approval could make it easier for employers, the military and universities to mandate vaccinations and may reassure some people who are hesitant about the vaccine.
Kinzy said ISU is monitoring the situation and the guidance coming from the Illinois Department of Public Health. She stressed that only one of the vaccines has been fully approved; the other two remain only available via emergency use authorization.
“There are three vaccines, and there are people that want one versus another, and we have to consider that in our deliberations,” Kinzy said.
ISU officials have defended their current approach to COVID vaccinations, which is similar to what other Illinois public universities have done.
“What we know is every day our vaccination numbers are still going up,” Kinzy said. “As an educational institution, our first approach is to educate people, and to have a rigorous testing procedure which is in place and we’re seeing people respond to, before going to an action that’s about as extreme of an action as you can take.”
The University of Virginia last week disenrolled students who didn’t comply with its COVID vaccine requirement. At least 238 students, including 49 enrolled in fall courses, were disenrolled.
Kinzy, who is in her first semester at ISU, called that an extreme measure. She said it’s better to consider what you should do, “not what you can do.”
“You’re basically telling students enrolled at a university who now have no time in order to change their mind and find another university in the middle of a semester. That’s a very significant change,” she said. “If your decision was made in time for students to transfer to another university before their semester started, that’s a very different case.”