U. of I. to require staff be vaccinated this fall

The requirement for staff in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield comes after the state’s flagship school mandated students get shots last month.

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The University of Illinois, which is mandating staff get vaccinated, previously required students get shots before the fall semester.

AP

The University of Illinois System will require employees be vaccinated for the upcoming semester, the school announced Wednesday.

In an email sent to staff, U. of I. System President Timothy Killeen laid out the mandate for the 32,000 faculty and staff members at the three campuses of the university in Chicago, Urbana-Champaign and Springfield.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to the safety of our campuses and the communities around them, the University of Illinois System will require that all faculty and staff be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by the beginning of the fall semester of 2021,” he wrote.

The requirement “is consistent with our own scientific modeling of the risks associated with the spread of the virus and its variants, as well as the Illinois Department of Public Health’s guidance and goals.”

The statement noted that some staff medically will not be able to get shots. They will have to follow exemption protocols determined by the campuses or U. of I. hospital and clinics. Protecting those people “is why it is so important that those of us who can get vaccinated do so,” he wrote.

In response to questions about whether staff that aren’t fully vaccinated by the time classes start in late-August will be allowed to return, Killeen said he was “confident that our policies will lead us to another successful and safe academic year.Individuals who are still working through their vaccination process or unable to be vaccinated will be able to use our robust SHIELD testing, along with mask wearing and specific protocols established by each university, to be cleared to participate in campus activities.”

Those obligations will be relaxed for staff or faculty once full vaccination status is verified, he said.

For the nearly 13,000 university workers represented by unions, Killeen said that “labor negotiators at each of the universities are engaged with bargaining units to discuss details of the specific campus protocols.”

Last month, the school became the first public university in the state to require vaccinations for its 90,000 students. Most prominent private Chicago universities — the University of ChicagoNorthwesternLoyolaColumbia College and DePaul — have already announced their students must get shots before returning in the fall.

Overall, U. of I.’s goal of returning to pre-pandemic life is simply not attainable without inoculations, Killeen said.

“We look forward to your help in setting a new standard this fall, a semester in which we will restore most in-person instruction and many of the other traditional rhythms of campus life,” he wrote in his message to the campuses. “This will not be possible without widespread vaccinations.”

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