Illinois Gov. Pritzker mandates vaccinations or weekly testing for university attendees, and healthcare workers

Governor JB Pritzker announced university students, university staff, and healthcare workers will be mandated to have at least one dose of the COVID vaccine by Sept. 5, 2021 or risk being barred from campus or healthcare facilities. 

The order, announced at an Aug. 26 press conference, comes in the wake of record high numbers of COVID patients in southern Illinois hospitals. 

“We hit a record high of 70 patients hospitalized with COVID-19,” Southern Illinois Healthcare Communications Coordinator Rosslind Rice said in an email. “Our critical care nurses and physicians are stretched to their limits.”


Employees and students who can’t be vaccinated will be required to get tested for COVID at least once a week, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“Healthcare, school workers, and higher education personnel and students attending in-person classes who do not provide proof of vaccination will be prevented from entering healthcare and educational facilities unless they follow the required testing protocol,” the press release said. 

Graduate Assistants United, the union which represents graduate student workers at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, said in its own  press release union members are pleased with Pritzker’s decision to order a vaccine mandate. 

The shifting landscape of the pandemic requires us to be flexible with how we respond; we are not in the same place we were even a month ago, so more needs to be done now than was thought necessary earlier in the summer,” the GAU press release said. 

The mandate didn’t come as a surprise to Addison Mandrell, an SIU-C graduate student and former SIH employee.

“In my eyes we have to get vaccines anyway before going into school and going into  healthcare,” Mandrell said. “To me, it was just a matter of time before they mandated it.”

Mandrell said she was required to update multiple vaccinations before working at SIH from December 2019 through May 2021, and doesn’t view the COVID vaccination as significantly different from that experience, though she’s understanding of other people’s apprehension. 


“I felt like we were almost like guinea pigs in a sense because we were the first people to get the vaccine back in January. I waited because I didn’t want to be the first,” Mandrell said.  “We didn’t know, right, nobody knew what the reactions were.”

Elise Grabowska, a program student advisor for SIU School of Medicine, said she’s excited for the vaccination to be mandated, and sees it as the healthiest path out of the pandemic. 

“ I think the best way that I can serve students is by being vaccinated, and making sure that when they come for advisement it is a safe place to do so,” Grabowska said. 

SIU-C had faced increasing scrutiny from staff and students because of the university administration’s decision not to make vaccinations or testing mandatory at the start of the fall 2021 semester

A petition, started and circulated by members of a group titled Students Organizing for Safety, gathered 440 signatures within a few days before the governor’s order after cases of student quarantine and classroom COVID exposure began to rise. 

[See More: SIU-C COVID exposures a motivation for petition for vaccine, testing mandates similar to other universities]

Grabowska, who signed the petition, said she felt the governor’s order might alleviate the pressure on SIU-C to mediate political controversy around vaccination among students and staff. 

“I feel like a lot of times, when there’s kind of two different sides that have really strong, controversial opinions, that it usually just gets tied up in trying to make a compromise that is impossible,” Grabowska said. 

In an email to students and staff SIU-C Chancellor Austin Lane said human resources will be responsible for communication with employees and students about the details of providing vaccination proof. 

“Students will receive a reminder from Student Affairs about how to upload their proof of vaccination,” Lane said in the email.

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to correct an attribution error

Staff reporter Jason Flynn can be reached at [email protected], by phone at 872-222-7821 or on Twitter at @dejasonflynn. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.