Illinois governor drops vaccine and testing mandate for higher ed staff and students

The attorney who sued over the mandates is claiming victory.

Updated: July 14, 2022 - 12:12am

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Students and staff at Illinois universities and community colleges no longer have to prove they’re vaccinated or test for COVID-19 under modified orders from Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The attorney who sued over the mandates is claiming victory.

Pritzker’s office on Wednesday announced modified COVID-19 executive orders issued in August 2021 for all K-12 staff, college staff and students and workers in the medical industry to vaccinate or test. The updated order drops the vaccine and testing mandate in higher ed.

Attorney Thomas DeVore, who’s also the GOP candidate for attorney general in the November election, sued the governor and several colleges over the mandate June 22.

“It’s my opinion that given that these colleges were in the position where they had to answer our lawsuit within the next week or two, the governor issued this modified executive order to try to render this lawsuit moot,” DeVore told The Center Square.

DeVore said the governor dropping the mandate Wednesday is a victory for his clients.

“There’s no facts and science to support any of what he just did, it’s a way to get these colleges out of the hotbox in where they were going to have to answer this lawsuit,” DaVore said. “To that extent I’m pleased that my clients and the rest of the kids in college as well as the educators are no longer under this vaccination or test policy, I’m grateful for that, but it’s sad it took another lawsuit to accomplish that.”

Pritzker’s move was supported by the executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

“As we move into this next phase, we are building on the success of our campus leaders, staff, faculty, and students over the past two years in keeping our campuses safe, while keeping students on their path to credentials and degrees, especially our students of color and low-income students who were most impacted,” IBHE Executive Director Ginger Ostro said.

DeVore still has a case pending against vaccine or testing mandates for K-12 teachers, which remains in place.

“School and daycare-aged children have much lower rates of vaccination than the general public and have less ability to consistently and safely mask,” Pritzker’s office said. “In addition, outbreaks at schools threaten the ability to continue with in-person learning and the developmental benefits it provides.”

DeVore speculated on why the distinction between K-12 and colleges.

“We’re coming into the election cycle, so politics is playing an even more significant role in all of these things that the governor is doing than they did for the last two years,” DeVore said. “I would challenge the governor to show the people any facts and science that promote this modified executive order. There isn’t any. It’s pure politics and he didn’t want to see these colleges lose another lawsuit like he’s lost in the past.”

Vaccine and testing mandates were also relaxed for some medical settings as part of the governor’s modified orders Wednesday.

“Unvaccinated staff at hospitals and other healthcare facilities that are certified by CMS will now be required to test weekly only if located in areas of high community level transmission,” the governor’s office said. Nursing home staff not vaccinated in moderate community level transmission areas will only have to test once a week; twice a week for high level areas.