Eastern ‘strongly encouraging’ COVID-19 testing ahead of spring semester

Kate+Montgomery+%28right%29%2C+a+freshman+psychology+major%2C+gets+instruction+from+Corey+Bentley%2C+a+senior+health+administration+major%2C+at+the+COVID-19+testing+site+in+the+Lantz+Arena+Fieldhouse+on+Dec.+2%2C+2020.+%5BI%5D+just+want+to+make+sure+I+don%E2%80%99t+have+COVID+so+I+don%E2%80%99t+spread+it+with+any+family+or+friends.+I%E2%80%99m+staying+here+but+I+visit+home+every+weekend%2C+Montgomery+said.+

Karina Delgado | The Daily Eastern News

Kate Montgomery (right), a freshman psychology major, gets instruction from Corey Bentley, a senior health administration major, at the COVID-19 testing site in the Lantz Arena Fieldhouse on Dec. 2, 2020. “[I] just want to make sure I don’t have COVID so I don’t spread it with any family or friends. I’m staying here but I visit home every weekend,” Montgomery said.

Corryn Brock, Editor-in-Chief

Eastern is encouraging, but not requiring, all students and employees to take COVID-19 tests upon returning to campus.
Testing will be available at Court 5 of the Student Rec Center Jan. 10, 11 and 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Jan. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Other public institutions in Illinois, like the University of Illinois and Illinois State University, have announced plans to have a period of time with online instruction in response to an increase in COVID-19 cases statewide. Illinois has seen nearly 2.4 COVID-19  and 31,660 deaths caused by COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Jay Gatrell said the university will not have a university-wide period of online instruction due to research within the university.
“Without knowing the specific situations of other institutions, our survey feedback and the observed student data over the past two years has been consistent—EIU students value and benefit from a consistent mode of intended instruction—and the majority of our students prefer face-to-face experiences,” Gatrell said. “Coupled with SHIELD testing and established protocols, in-person learning best demonstrates our commitment to student success while still maintaining the health and safety on campus.”
Gatrell said previous shifts in how courses are offered have had a negative impact.
“Unfortunately, temporary changes in modality are disruptive and feedback from students and faculty alike has been consistent that temporary shifts are problematic and stressful. The data also indicate that critical student success metrics, such as retention rates and academic standing, were being negatively affected,” Gatrell said. “The University feels that because of the resources available that students can safely be on campus and in the residence halls moving forward with the existing schedule and calendar.”
Faculty who are assigned in-person classes will have the opportunity to elect for their classes to temporarily have hybrid delivery for the first week of the semester.
This follows an agreement with Eastern’s chapter of the union University Professionals of Illinois.
The agreement also requires that the university encourage the use of N95, KN95, ASTM-3 masks and other comparable equivalents in campus spaces, make two of the previously listed masks available for students and employees and continuation of COVID-19 policies that are currently in place.
Beyond classes, students should expect little change to the upcoming semester.
Students and employees are not currently required to have the COVID-19 vaccine, but all are highly encouraging all of the campus community to receive the vaccine and booster.
Similar to the fall semester students and employees who are not vaccinated must complete weekly COVID-19 testing or face disciplinary actions.

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]