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Campus briefing May 12, 2021

College leaders will not decide whether to require the COVID-19 vaccination until public health guidance is forthcoming later this spring and summer.

President Steve Bahls said in a campus briefing today that about 5% of colleges and universities have announced they will require it, and that number is growing each day. 

"We expect the number of colleges requiring the vaccine will increase dramatically when a vaccine receives full approval from the FDA, which could come as early as July," he said.

Augustana will wait for guidance from the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health and announce a decision at that point.

President Bahls said many Augustana students are already vaccinated, perhaps more than 90%. And he encouraged the rest of the campus to get vaccinated.

"The more students who are vaccinated the sooner life can get back to more of a normal at Augustana," he said. "Those not vaccinated should prepare for the possibility that public health officials require or encourage us to require vaccinations."

He said it is already clear that unvaccinated students will not be able to participate in all activities at Augustana.

International programs this summer, as well as work with the Upper Mississippi Center in the community, will not be available to unvaccinated students. High-risk activities, such as participation in music ensembles, may require students to be vaccinated. The NCAA has not announced whether it will require athletes to be vaccinated. 

Unvaccinated students will be required to have weekly surveillance testing at their expense next year.

Most surveyed have been vaccinated

Dr. Wes Brooks, dean of students, said the college's surveillance testing results continue to be strong, and there are no reports from people who have tested positive outside the college’s program.

He asked that the entire campus community complete the Vaccine Tracking survey, because having this information will help college leaders plan.

The most recent tally of the survey shows 773 students have responded and 323 employees. Of those, 93% of students were fully or partially vaccinated, and 95% of employees.

"I am hopeful that we are in the last lap of what has been an incredible marathon," Dr. Brooks said. "We need everyone to keep taking the steps they’ve so diligently taken through the course of this academic year, so we can finish strong. Masking and physical distancing are still required. Please continue keeping social groups small."

Looking forward

Dr. Brooks encouraged all to continue mitigation efforts between now and May 23, when in-person commencement ceremonies are planned.

"As a campus community, let’s aim to have nothing come between our plans to give graduates the celebration they deserve and our returning students a finals week where they can focus on their academics leading into a much deserved summer break," he said.

Dr. Brooks said it appears that next year will provide students with a fuller experience: more classroom time, more social events, more in terms of athletics and the arts, and "more of what makes Augustana the special place that is!"