Although we are still experiencing a pandemic, current trends give us reason for hope of getting back to normal in the future.
More and more of our population has been vaccinated — about one in four people in Jackson County are fully vaccinated. And positive COVID cases on our campus remain low. These are good signs for us to celebrate the planned in-person commencement we all want, for our staff to return to campus offices soon and for our faculty to lead in-person classes in the fall. Let me assure you that we will do all of this safely.
We have done well so far, thanks to the collective efforts of Salukis. We have arrived at this point because Salukis care about the safety of those around them. Of course, this is no time for overconfidence or complacency. We still have a lot of work to do.
But I believe we can all stay safe and get to where we want to go if we keep working together. We must still wear our face masks, practice social distancing, wash our hands and follow other health and safety protocols in the Saluki Safety plan.
Getting vaccinated will also help us all reach our goal. It is the reason I decided to get my vaccine. Research shows that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and have been highly effective in preventing serious illness and death.
Understanding that getting the vaccine is a personal choice, if you have yet to receive your vaccine, I encourage you to keep asking questions as you consider your options. Since March 22, employees in higher education, including student workers, have been eligible for vaccination. This week in Jackson County, all Illinois residents age 16 and older became eligible. This includes SIU students from Illinois and outside our state. You can find out more on the Jackson County Health Department website.
The university’s leadership team will continue to monitor the situation and adapt as needed. As we move forward, we will adhere to the Restore Illinois plan and continue to partner with local and state health agencies.
Right now, we are in Phase 4 of Restore Illinois and have all the precautions in place. When certain metrics are met, we anticipate moving to the Bridge to Phase 5, which loosens restrictions and allows more people to gather. We will continue to follow the state’s mandate of mask-wearing in indoor shared spaces. At this point, Illinois has reached a significant milestone — about 70% of residents age 65 and older have received at least their first dose of a vaccine.
For about a year, we have faced unprecedented challenges, but our students, faculty and staff found innovative ways to learn, teach and work. Salukis have been a model of resilience in the time of COVID-19.
As we look toward the future, we have an opportunity to really come back and do it in a safe way.