URBANA – Am I allowed to require that even vaccinated people wear face coverings in my unit or office?
This may be the overriding question related to COVID-19 that the University of Illinois received from its faculty and staff ahead of the fall semester of 2021.
“You can ask all participants to wear a face covering even if they are not vaccinated,” Chancellor Robert Jones said during a college webinar on Monday. “It doesn’t mean they have to comply.”
His suggestions: Get a bigger meeting room or go out. Make the meeting remote if you have to.
As plans for the second fall return of the IU’s COVID-19 era begin to crystallize, school officials are working out the details of work and decorum with a widely vaccinated campus population.
Virus-related restrictions and practices are starting to loosen at a university that has delivered one of the country’s most ambitious COVID-19 response plans, administering tens of thousands of tests per week for two consecutive semesters.
“We will have a chance to – I won’t say get back to normal – but implement a new normal,” Jones said at Monday’s Senate executive committee meeting.
Speaking of the new normal, the university isn’t deciding which workers will need to work in person, hybrid, or remotely. This responsibility will be entrusted to the different units of the school.
All college cohorts were expected to share their return-to-work plans by July 16 and will have the next two weeks to clarify all the details.
“We had the responsibility not to try to issue warrants and decrees, but to transfer this responsibility to the heads of unit, because they are the ones who know best the function, the categories of employment and to hire dialogues and conversations with employees about what type of arrangement would make the most sense, ”Jones said.
“We were convinced that the idea of getting 95 to 100% of people back to one place to do the same job would have meant that we hadn’t learned anything from COVID-19. “
Students, faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated – and upload their vaccination cards to the McKinley Health Center online portal – will not have to continue with the saliva testing program on the IU campus.
Rules for the unvaccinated Those who are “unable” to get fully vaccinated, for whatever reason, will still need to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and continue to test for the virus at an even higher frequency than last year.
Starting August 2, unvaccinated graduate students, faculty, and staff are required to take a test twice a week. Unvaccinated undergraduates must take a test every other day. If students who do not have a verified vaccination record miss two tests in a row, they will be referred to student discipline, said rector Andreas Cangellaris.
Other university COVID-19 elements, such as the wellness support associates who monitored university building entrances, are being changed for the new year.
Since the fall will consist almost entirely of face-to-face classes, “it is not physically possible from a staffing point of view to present WSA in every teaching building for every class we offer”, Jones said.
Some WSAs will be doing “spot checks” every day of the week at different classroom buildings to cover more bases, Jones said.
Campus students used the Safer Illinois app to show whether they met the test requirements to be allowed entry into college buildings, and this app will continue to be used.
The app will display “building access granted” if the user has downloaded an immunization card or kept abreast of required tests, but the app will not disclose the option selected by the user.
“It’s none of my business” And university officials are clear: whether you’re talking to a colleague, boss, student, or teacher, “don’t get into the conversation” about immunization status.
“It’s really none of my business whether you get vaccinated or not,” said Deb Stone, acting deputy vice chancellor for human resources. “The conversation about immunization status – this is private health information. There is no place for that, because we have an alternative model thanks to our tests and our face covers. “
Official immunization records are stored only in the McKinley Health database and nowhere else in university records, just like other immunizations. More than 37,000 members of the campus community had received at least one dose of a vaccine by the end of June.
As of January 1, 2021, 49,782 people have been tested for COVID-19 on campus. Using that as a benchmark, 74.6% of campuses received at least one injection in mid-June. About 71 percent of undergraduates had received a dose: less than the 77 percent of staff and faculty who had received an injection, and 84 percent of graduate students.
However, Stone warned that many of these people may choose to wear a mask due to “varying comfort levels” with returning to an in-person activity.
“We shouldn’t make any assumptions about a person’s immunization status,” Stone said. “We should not assume that just because someone is wearing a mask means they are not vaccinated.”