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Pritzker considering vaccine requirement for students returning to state universities

Gov. J.B. Pritzker didn’t rule out the possibility of following some private universities, including three in Chicago, that are requiring students to get their COVID-19 shots before returning to campus in the fall.

Students walk through the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has not ruled out a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for students returning to public universities this fall.
Students walk through the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has not ruled out a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for students returning to public universities this fall.
Sun-Times file

Students returning to public universities in Illinois might need to receive their COVID-19 vaccination before they’re allowed to return to campuses this fall, but it’s up to them — for now.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s health team has already deployed mobile vaccination units to many state schools to encourage inoculations, but he didn’t rule out a statewide mandate Wednesday as vaccine demand starts to wane across Illinois.

“We want everybody to get vaccinated, there’s no doubt. As to whether we would require people to get vaccinated in order to come back on campus, that’s something that’s under some discussion around the nation,” Pritzker said during an unrelated news conference at Heartland Community College in downstate Normal.

Some private universities have already announced vaccine requirements, including three in Chicago: Columbia College, DePaul University and Loyola University Chicago. The public university system in Massachusetts announced a mandate earlier this week.

For now, though, Pritzker wants to see students make that choice for themselves.

“What we want right now is for people to raise their hand and say, ‘I want to get vaccinated.’ And unlike two months ago, those vaccinations are available now,” Pritzker said. “If you want to get vaccinated, essentially over the next two weeks and beyond, you’re going to be able to raise your hand and go somewhere today to get vaccinated… So we’re encouraging students on campuses, these are young adults really, to choose to get vaccinated.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois, on Wednesday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois, on Wednesday.
State of Illinois livestream

With the state hitting a milestone of 9 million shots given as of Wednesday, almost 60% of Illinois adults have gotten at least one dose and nearly a third are fully vaccinated.

But while it’s getting “easier and easier” to get a shot as Pritzker said, fewer and fewer people are rolling up their sleeves every day.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 106,173 doses were administered Tuesday, lowering the state’s average to 100,823 shots per day over the last week.

That rate has steadily fallen since hitting an all-time high of nearly 133,000 on April 12. Now it’s on pace to fall below 100,000 this week for the first time since March 26.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

Still, the state’s coronavirus metrics are moving in the right direction.

Officials reported 2,728 new cases of the disease were diagnosed among 87,698 tests to lower the average statewide positivity rate to 3.4%. After a monthlong spike in cases, that number is back down to its lowest point since the end of March.

But the virus killed 33 more residents, including a Cook County woman in her 20s.

Illinois’ COVID-19 death toll is up to 21,891 among the 1.3 million-plus residents who have tested positive since March 2020.

For help finding a vaccination appointment in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835.

For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.

To find providers elsewhere, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.