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Keeping Campus Safe During the COVID Pandemic

Courtesy WIU

Many colleges and universities welcomed students back on campus this fall despite the ongoing pandemic. That presents the challenge of keeping everyone safe from COVID-19.

Joe Roselieb, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services and Risk Management at Western Illinois University, said 85% of WIU employees and more than 50% of students are now vaccinated against the virus.

He said the university has come a long way in vaccinating students since the new school year began in mid-August.

“It was below 20% (of students) when we started off,” Roselieb said, though he added that tracking the number of vaccinated students on campus is not as easy as it might seem.

“There are so many anomalies that we’ve found. Students that are all online but still on campus.  All online altogether. Internships but still living on campus. Internships (and living) off campus. There’s a lot of different coding that’s had to take place.”

Roselieb said he does not know the exact number of students and employees who’ve become ill with COVID-19 this semester. But he said the number is quite low.

He said WIU could still do a better job of making sure unvaccinated students are getting tested for COVID-19 every week. He said several hundred are not complying with the testing mandate.

Roselieb said the administration initially sent reminder letters to those students. Now it has suspended recreation center access to them and is not allowing them to travel with any clubs or organizations they belong to. He said campus leaders have also considered more drastic measures.

“We’ve talked about dismissal and we continue to discuss that,” Roselieb said.

“That’s obviously the last-case scenario. We don’t want to do it and with that many students it just isn’t realistic.

Roselieb believes Western is in good shape now, but cautions the situation can change quickly.

“We continue to monitor things and look at things weekly. We’re just as aggressive today as we were on Week 1,” he said.

“We’ve adjusted and pivoted as we can, and we’ll continue to keep campus as safe as possible as well as the Macomb community.”

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.