85% of students vaccinated before deadline, 11% remains

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A clinician uses a syringe to inject a COVD-19 vaccine into a patient.

Elisa Reamer, News Reporter

DeKALB —  Students and staff will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 1, which is when spring semester registration begins. If students are not vaccinated or have not received a religious or medical exemption, they will not be able to attend in-person classes next semester. 

Around 85.5% of students and 92.3% of faculty and staff are vaccinated, NIU Chief of Staff Matt Streb said. Over 3% of students have received a religious or medical exemption, so about 11% of students still have to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 

“I want to be really clear, those are the students who are having some sort of in-person learning variance, so it’s not every single student,” Streb said. “If they’re completely online, presumably, you know many of our students are vaccinated there as well, but when we talk about 85 and change, we’re talking about students who have an in-person learning experience.” 

To receive a medical exemption, students and staff must provide a note from their personal physician stating why they cannot receive a vaccine.  

“The number one thing that has helped us make sure that we can keep classes in-person and have some of the social events and things that we’ve done this fall that we couldn’t do last fall is because our students and our faculty and staff have gotten vaccinated,” Streb said.  

Streb said NIU receives around two dozen new vaccine card submissions every day. He believes the vaccine rate is actually higher than 85.5%, but students have not uploaded their vaccine cards yet through the COVID-19 form on the MYNIU Student System

“Students who received the personal exemption need to make sure that they go get vaccinated,” Streb said. “They’re still in in-person classes right now. We haven’t removed them from classes; they have to test, but in the spring, they will have to have shown that they are fully vaccinated.” 

NIU will review everyone who has signed up for in-person classes on Jan. 7, which is 11 days before classes start for the spring semester, Streb said. If students are not exempted or not fully vaccinated, they will be removed from the classes they signed up for. 

NIU is planning to begin wastewater surveillance testing in dorms, indicating where there are spikes in COVID-19 even if people aren’t showing symptoms. 

“The levels and the wastewater start to go up; you got to really make sure you’re wearing your mask because the virus might be more prevalent,” Streb said. 

If the results show a spike coming from a certain dorm, they may require everyone living there to get tested for the virus. 

NIU’s positivity rate is at .36%, according to the NIU COVID Dashboard. Streb said unvaccinated people have a higher chance of testing positive, but there have been breakthrough cases of vaccinated individuals who have tested positive. 

Students can receive both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot or the one dose of the Johnson and Johnson shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated. 

“Every time I walk on campus, I just feel this great sense of happiness and great sense of joy because it’s so awesome to see our students back in and see them doing the things that you normally see on a college campus,” Streb said.