Illinois educators told to get vaccinated

By: 
STAFF REPORT

The statewide mask mandate indoors is back, and educators and health care professionals will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced the new mandates on Aug. 26, amid an ongoing surge in the pandemic that first led to stay-at-home orders and other mitigations in March 2020.

The indoor masking order went into effect on Monday.

The vaccine requirement, which goes into effect Sept. 5, will apply to “all P-12 teachers and staff, all higher education personnel, all higher education students, and health care workers in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, urgent care facilities and physician's offices,” Pritzker said.

“Effective Sept. 5, individuals working in these settings who are unable or unwilling to receive their first dose of vaccine will be required to get tested for COVID-19 at least once a week, and IDPH and (the Illinois State Board of Education) may require more frequent testing in certain situations, like in an outbreak,” he said.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the state is seeing 220 hospital admissions per day, a number on par with a surge in May. Pritzker said 98% of cases, 96% of hospitalizations and 95% of deaths since January have been among unvaccinated people.

State officials added that mask wearing continues to be “one of the simplest, cheapest ways” to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We are continuing to rely on experts at the (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and (Illinois Department of Public Health), but you don't need to be an epidemiologist to understand what's going on here. This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Pritzker said.

The Will County Health Department’s data on local cases of COVID-19 lags by two weeks in the county’s official reporting.

For the week of Aug. 16, the county reported one positive case in a school aged child in Wilmington, and three positive cases in Braidwood. School aged cases are those among the population aged 5-18.

The total number of new cases for all age groups for the same week in Wilmington was 17, and in Braidwood the new cases totaled 20.

Countywide, among school aged children, there are 218 positive cases as of Aug. 16, with the most being in Joliet (55) followed by Plainfield (36).

Students or staff with a suspected case of COVID-19 are able to take a test at schools locally.

The Wilmington and Reed-Custer School Districts utilize BinaxNOW a rapid result COVID-19 antigen test that has been made available through the Will County Health Department. The tests can be used voluntarily for students or staff who have a suspected case of COVID-19, or COVID-19 symptoms.

The county first made the testing kits available to schools, businesses, health care providers, long-term care facilities, assisted living sites, workplaces providing essential services, those serving vulnerable populations, first responders, colleges, detention centers, universities and trade schools, worksites, treatment centers and federally qualified health centers back in March.

The tests produce results in 15 minutes and are provided at no cost, to those eligible, by the Will County Health Department.

As of Aug. 28, the test positivity seven day rolling average in Will County is 6.4%, marking four days of decline.