State 'strongly encourages' colleges to require COVID-19 vaccine
SPRINGFIELD -- The state's higher education agencies released updated COVID-19 guidance Monday encouraging all public and private higher education institutions in Illinois to issue mandatory vaccine policies.
"Vaccination against COVID-19 is now widely available, and all persons over the age of 12 are eligible," the guidance document from the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board reads. "Vaccination is the leading prevention strategy against COVID-19 and all public and private universities are strongly encouraged to require vaccination (with appropriate exemptions) to protect campus populations and slow COVID-19 transmission in surrounding communities."
Some schools, including Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University, the University of Illinois system, Loyola University Chicago and DePaul University, among others, have already announced they will require vaccinations for in-person learning.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office said Friday the administration currently has "no plan to implement any additional mitigations now that there is an abundance of vaccine available and accessible across Illinois. We encourage all Illinoisans ages 12-plus to get vaccinated as soon as possible."
But Pritzker, speaking at a news conference regarding infrastructure later Friday, said his administration is "always open to making changes in policy in order to keep people safe and healthy."
He said he would currently advise even vaccinated Illinoisans to wear a mask in a setting where many people are gathered indoors. The state's guidance currently says unvaccinated individuals should wear face coverings indoors, but it is not a mandate.
The state's higher education guidance falls in line with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Illinois Department of Public Health guidance on masking as well.
"Unvaccinated persons and those who might need to take extra precautions should wear a face covering and, where feasible, maintain physical distance while indoors," the state's higher education guidance reads. "Institutions should use space wisely to allow for physical distancing to the extent practicable."
Higher education institutions are also "strongly encouraged to continue COVID-19 testing of unvaccinated individuals to identify and slow virus transmission," and should follow CDC guidelines on safe hygiene practices and health equity.