Illinois requires educators, health workers to get vaccine

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Illinois will require all educators from kindergarten through college and health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines or submit to weekly testing

The mandates, which overlap in several places with existing rules, are a response to a spike in COVID-19 infections fueled by the highly contagious delta variant, particularly in southern and central Illinois.

“Our current vaccination levels are not enough to blunt the ferocity of the delta variant hospitalization surges,” Pritzker, a first-term Democrat, said at a Chicago news conference. “In some regions, hospital administrators are asking for more help to manage the sheer number of incoming patients who, I’ll empathize again, are almost exclusively individuals who have chosen not to have gotten the life-saving vaccine.”

Other cities and states have made similar requirements. Earlier this month, California required all teachers and school staff to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

The surge in Illinois, with more than 4,400 cases reported Wednesday, has started overwhelming hospitals in less populated areas in the state where vaccination rates are low and there are fewer health care facilities. For instance, in southern Illinois fewer than half of the residents are vaccinated and earlier this week there was only one available intensive care unit hospital bed available, according to state health officials.

In August, public health departments statewide have reported more than two dozen COVID-19 outbreaks at schools, according to Pritzker’s office.

Illinois already has a mask requirement for all schools and two of the largest education systems, Chicago Public Schools and the University of Illinois, already require educator vaccinations. The U of I system also already requires student vaccinations. A large number of hospital systems have also required employee vaccines.

Teachers unions have voiced support of the vaccine and masking rules, but some schools have failed to enforce them and there have been complaints from some private schools and conservative lawmakers.

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Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

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