CHICAGO — The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will waive weekly COVID-19 testing requirements for students and employees who can show they are fully vaccinated by the fall term.
The new policy, announced Thursday, will take effect no later than Aug. 23, the first day of the fall 2021 semester, but could be rolled out earlier during the summer, a universitywide email stated. Under the new rules, those who share proof of vaccination with the school, showing that two weeks have passed since receiving the final dose, will be exempt from the testing requirement and granted access to campus buildings.
“We are simply following science and (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance, and we made clear that we will continue to adapt as necessary and appropriate,” spokeswoman Robin Kaler said in an email.
The announcement comes as colleges nationwide are trying to incentivize inoculations among students, faculty and staff who frequent campus. Some universities, including at several private colleges in Illinois, are mandating the shots.
Kaler declined to say whether the university is considering a vaccine requirement, noting the focus is on making the doses accessible. About 90% of students surveyed said they’ve either been vaccinated or plan to be as soon as they can access the vaccine, Kaler said.
The new policy was recommended by the campus team overseeing pandemic protocols and “based on what the vaccine research has shown so far,” the school email said. People vaccinated off campus must upload proof of the shots to their online health portal.
Most students and staff visiting campus this year were required to take twice-weekly COVID-19 saliva tests, developed by the university, as part of a multipronged approached to prevent the spread of infections.
Some students were asked to test three times a week if they had a higher likelihood of exposure based on their residence and level of cases.
About 40,000 students returned to the campus for classes this year, and the university’s approach was largely hailed as a success. Though some larger outbreaks prompted social restrictions, in-person classes continued without interruption
In Chicago, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, Roosevelt University and Columbia College Chicago — all private schools — are requiring COVID-19 vaccines for returning students this fall.
Across the Indiana border, the University of Notre Dame is also requiring vaccines and trying to incentivize students to promptly schedule their shots. The Catholic University announced Wednesday that it will add $15 to student accounts, waive exit testing before summer, end weekly surveillance in May and plan two “special events” during Senior Week if 90% of undergraduate and professional students become fully vaccinated.
More than 100 universities nationwide are requiring vaccines for students or staff.
Higher education officials in Illinois have expressed hesitancy about mandating the shots at public universities, saying the requirement would need to stem from a state law or the Illinois Department of Public Health.