To our Charleston and Coles County Community –
Eastern Illinois University’s fall classes are scheduled to begin August 24. As many of you know, the University has worked diligently throughout the past four months to establish procedures and protocols aimed at safeguarding our students, our employees, and our neighbors.
We take our role as a community partner seriously, so it’s important to keep our community informed. That’s why today, I appreciate this opportunity to share a summary of the policies and protocols EIU has put in place to protect our faculty, students, staff, and community members from the spread of Covid-19 on campus and in the community this academic year. While I encourage everyone in the community to explore the more-detailed overview available on our website (https://www.eiu.edu/covid/), the most critical components of our Return-to-Campus plan are summarized below:
EIU’s decisions and associated guidelines are based on the joint medical and professional advice developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Illinois Governor’s Office, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the State’s Restore Illinois plan, and the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE). Our Return-to-Campus plan also assumes Illinois will remain in Phase 4 of the State’s Restore Illinois plan, which allows universities to offer face-to-face learning provided they follow the safety and health strategies issued by those entities.
As a partner with the Charleston and Coles County community, we believe it important to share data concerning positive cases of Covid-19 among our students and employees. Since the first case of a positive Covid-19 test associated with EIU was reported on July 13, 2020, the Coles County Health Department has informed us that 36 students and 7 employees have tested positive for Covid-19 as of August 12, 2020—all of whom were directed to quarantine in compliance with State directives. The university will continue to report Covid-related campus data on a weekly basis. The data will be generated and supplied to EIU by the Coles County Health Department and other sources and posted on the EIU website.
The science has been reasonably clear with regard to Covid-19 prevention. Wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, washing hands, limiting gatherings and interactions are required of all of us and we will enforce these obligations on University employees and students. We implore all businesses and especially those specific establishments that cater to EIU students to strictly enforce the wearing of masks and social distancing. No masks, no entry. By actions of our businesses being vigilant against anyone who is not practicing safe public health measures will help immeasurably to keep the transmission of the virus as low as possible.
Despite the challenges we face, EIU is committed to providing the best possible learning experience to our students in as healthy and safe an environment as possible. We are working very closely in partnership with our city officials, the Coles County Health Department and Sarah Bush Lincoln Hospital System. We thank these agencies for their outstanding guidance and support.
EIU’s success this fall—and the success of Coles County in continuing to reduce the spread of Covid-19— will undoubtedly place shared responsibility on the University, its students and employees, community members, and each other. EIU is committed to working tirelessly to navigate these challenges together.
President, Eastern Illinois University