IWU maintains mandate after Pritzker announces mask lift

Alessia Girardin, News Editor

Photo: Illinois Wesleyan University

While students navigate through the Omicron variant, Titans should remain vigilant to the changes that are happening statewide. As of February 21, Governor J.B. Pritzker plans to lift the indoor mask mandate next Monday, February 28. For most students, however, this does not apply. While ISU will not require masks in some campus facilities as of February 22, IWU plans to keep the current mask mandate pending students’ return from spring break. Dean of Students, Karla Carney- Hall and Director of Arnold Health Services, Dr. Vickie Folse will continue to hold the mask mandate and will offer testing for students before Spring Break. 

If Illinois COVID metrics continue to decline, Pritzker plans to lift Illinois’ indoor mask mandate, with the exception of schools. Pritzker announced on Wednesday, February 9 that the state is “seeing the fastest rate of decline in our hospitalization metrics since the pandemic bagan.” 

The reason schools are part of the exception, Pritzker noted, is because “school outbreaks impact hundreds, even thousands of people across a community – and there are a whole lot more infections when districts are maskless.”

According to Pritzker, there is no need to risk a potential outbreak in this sort of community, therefore the mask mandate will remain in schools, as well as health care settings, long term care facilities, congregate settings, transportation, and daycare. 

As of Wednesday, February 9, Illinois is averaging about 2,500 COVID Hospitalizations demonstrating a 66 percent drop from the 7,300 seen during the peak of the Omicron surge last month. Hospitalization reductions will also be key to removing the mandate. 

Illinois Wesleyan is heading in the right direction with their COVID cases. The number of COVID cases as of Tuesday, February 23, are 2 active cases. In total, there are 69 cases after baseline testing this semester. 

With Pritzker’s plans to lift the mask mandate, IWU is reviewing their campus policy. Dean Carney- Hall noted that “we have consistently trailed changes to monitor for the impact of those changes in our community.” 

IWU will continue to require masks indoors through at least Spring Break. Additionally, testing will be offered Monday and Wednesday following Spring Break to support students who traveled over the break to ensure a healthy return to campus. After post-break testing, IWU will assess whether to reduce masking requirements and how to best implement a change. 

Dean Carney- Hall noted that many campuses are maintaining a requirement in the classroom and in larger group settings, and IWU wants to review protocols carefully. 

As of now, Dr. Folse wants IWU students to report symptoms, even as mild as a runny nose, or a new cough to Arnold Health Services so they can help direct students regarding next steps, including testing resources. Dr. Folse also noted that some positive cases that were not reported had jeopardized the health of the campus community. 

All IWU students are encouraged to get their booster, if they are eligible, at the Shirk Center next Tuesday, March 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as this will be the last clinic before Titans leave for spring break.