Mask and vaccination policies likely won’t be changing for the upcoming fall semester due to rising COVID-19 cases in Madison County. 

According to the Madison County Health Department, the seven days prior to July 23 have seen the average rate of cases grow to eight percent, with the most cases happening to people from ages 10 to 40 years old.

Director of Community Health Amy Yeager with the Madison County Health Department said that her concern is the low vaccination rate in Madison County.

“We have over 46 percent of the people that are eligible currently in Madison County to get the vaccine [that still] have not been vaccinated, and that’s a pretty large percentage. That’s a lot more opportunity for the virus to make people sick … the more [vaccines] you have, you as an individual become more protected, but the more that is in the community, the more of a wall of protection there is,” Yeager said.

Yeager said the main reason the cases are spreading again is because people aren’t getting vaccinated or they’re not following guidelines to keep them safe.

“The restrictions have been a lot more reduced, people are a lot more relaxed [and] they’re not necessarily following the preventative precautions anymore ...  If you are unvaccinated, you are still to be masking and social distancing, because that will also slow the spread,” Yeager said.

With school starting up for the fall, Yeager said she believes more vaccinations will help make sure children are able to safely return to school.

“The bottom line is the vaccine is working. We just want to try to keep people healthy,” Yeager said. “We’re getting closer to the beginning of school and we all want to have a fun summer and we all want those kids back in the classroom for a whole lot of reasons. It’s just going to take each of us doing our own individual part to keep everybody healthy and safe.”

With Pfizer booster shots still being up in the air, Health Service Director Riane Greenwalt said she has not heard any information to suggest they’re necessary or will change the vaccination policy.

“The CDC has not recommended boosters at this time … If the CDC changes their regulations and their definition of fully vaccinated, we’ll change ours,” Greenwalt said.

Greenwalt said she thinks the upcoming Fall 2021 semester is still time for students to take precautionary measures, even if they’re vaccinated.

“As we prepare for fall, we’re expecting more activity on campus, so I think it’s important not just to protect yourself, but to protect the rest of the community. The only way I know how to do that is through the different levels of mitigation,” Greenwalt said.

Greenwalt said the campus will still work together with the Madison County Health Department to hold more vaccination clinics on campus if necessary.

“We want to make sure that folks realize that if there’s a need [for the] vaccine, and people are wanting it and not able to get it in their area, we are happy to make that happen here,” Greenwalt said.

Regardless of vaccination status, Yeager said she wants to emphasize that people should still wear masks if they want to.

For more information regarding COVID-19 data and the campus health response, please visit the Madison County Health Department website or the SIUE Health Service website.

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