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Vaccine mandate in effect for Illinois teachers, health care workers

If a teacher or health care worker decides not to get the vaccine, they have to be tested for COVID every week

GRANITE CITY, Ill. — Starting Monday, workers entering schools and health facilities in Illinois need to be walking in with a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or with an agreement to be tested for the virus.

Sunday was the last day for teachers, hospital staff and other groups to get the COVID-19 vaccine under Governor J.B. Pritzker's statewide mandate.

This wasn't the original deadline, but the state made adjustments to give people more time to get the shots.

Those included in the mandate have to have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Monday. If they don't, they’ll have to get tested for the virus once a week.

IDPH and the Illinois State Board of Education can actually require people to be tested more frequently if there’s a spike in COVID cases.

The mandate applies to teachers in Pre-K through 12th grades and health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes, urgent care facilities and doctor offices.

All higher education students and faculty also fall under this mandate.

The mandate was announced by Gov. Pritzker in late August.

These groups originally had until Sept. 5 to get at least one dose of the vaccine. But, health and education organizations requested a deadline extension.

Groups like Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA) and the Illinois Education Association (IEA) reached out to the governor’s office to express their concerns. The groups said they needed more time to make sure they could make arrangements for those who choose not to get vaccinated and will need to be tested regularly.

Hospitals, especially, had trouble setting up testing arrangements to meet the original Sept. 5 deadline. So, the state extended it.

Now, these guidelines for the mandate are just the basis. Groups can build on them.

The governor’s office points out that the executive order does not stop any employer from implementing a rule that staff, students or visitors have to be fully vaccinated without giving the alternative of being tested for COVID every week.

"Vaccines remain our strongest tool to protect ourselves from COVID-19, the delta variant, and most crucially, to maintain our healthcare system's ability to care for anyone who walks through their doors in need of help," said Pritzker.

Vaccines are also required for all state employees at congregate housing facilities. The deadline for that is Oct. 4.

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