SIU students return to campus as COIVD-19 cases increase

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 10:29 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2021 at 10:46 PM CDT
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Carbondale, Ill. (KFVS) - Monday was the first day of the fall semester and dozens of young people fill the SIU Student Center but not without a mask.

“That can mean a classroom, a lobby, hallway, any place where more than one person is in a shared area,” said Kim Rendfeld, chief communications officer for SIU.

She said the campus, both students and staff are mostly vaccinated.

“We are strongly encouraging our students, our faculty and our staff to become vaccinated because that is the best strategy,” said Rendfeld.

A strategy that couldn’t come at a better time.

“Throughout the month of August so far we’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of cases,” said Rendfeld.

Bart Hagston leads the Jackson County Health Department.

“We’ve been at the IDPH warning level in Jackson County for 3 or 4 weeks now,” said Hagston.

Jackson County is seeing it highest month of COVID-19 cases since November 2020.

Hagston said that’s leading to mixed reaction now that the semester has started.

“They are excited to have students back around for the economic impacts that brings to the community, but they are nervous what that means as far as the risk of spreading COVID-19,” said Hagston.

He explained that the county needs everyone’s help to keep case numbers down.

“So, this does stress the entire healthcare system,” said Hagston.

Despite COVID-19 numbers rising and ICU bed availability decreasing in Jackson County, Rendfeld said SIU plans to stick to the same protocols with mask required and vaccine optional.

Rendfeld emphasized, they’ll continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation on campus, and adapt as needed.

“To continue to have that in person experience we are asking our campus community to continue to follow the health and safety protocols,” said Rendfeld.

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