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How are Southern Illinois colleges handling vaccine requirements?
  • Updated

CARBONDALE — In the wake of new recommendations from Illinois’ higher education agencies and announcements from the University of Illinois and other colleges that they will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all in-person learning this fall, institutions in Southern Illinois are taking a somewhat more relaxed approach.

Both the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board issued new guidance following an uptick in statewide COVID-19 cases. There also is concern about the delta variant of COVID. 

“Vaccination is the leading prevention strategy against COVID-19 and all public and private universities are strongly encouraged to require vaccination (with appropriate exemptions) to protect campus populations and slow COVID-19 transmission in surrounding communities,” the released guidance documents said.

Some schools, including the University of Illinois system, are mandating students be vaccinated prior to attending in-person classes during the fall semester. Despite the guidance, community colleges in the region and Southern Illinois University Carbondale are encouraging vaccinations, but not making them a requirement.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

"Our face mask policy has not changed,” explained SIU spokeswoman Kim Rendfeld in an email. “At SIU, people who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks in most situations, with exceptions such as health care settings and public transportation, but they have the option to wear a mask as they deem appropriate, such as a crowded indoor setting. People who are unvaccinated are required to wear masks if they cannot practice social distancing in public spaces.”

Rendfeld said the university is finalizing plans for a vaccination clinic, Aug. 12-14.

“Since March, we have actively promoted vaccination to our students, faculty and staff by newsletters and social media and will continue to do so. We plan to enlist student leaders and athletes in peer-to-peer messages and to provide incentives,” she wrote

John A. Logan College

At John A. Logan College, students are being encouraged to be vaccinated, including through a “lottery” which will award tuition waivers to two students who turned in proof of vaccinations.

“We want to be socially conscious and help to end this pandemic,” John A. Logan College President Kirk Overstreet told The Southern in late June. “We want to give students an incentive for vaccinations and give them a little bit of encouragement so that they can be safe and be back on campus. The goal is to get back to normal and end this pandemic.”

Spokesman Steve O’Keefe said the college is not mandating vaccinations, nor masks for fully-vaccinated students, staff or faculty.

Rend Lake College

Rend Lake College is not requiring vaccinations either, but is mandating masks for those who have not been fully vaccinated.

“In our effort to help prevent the spread and reduce risk for everyone, Rend Lake College requires those who have not been vaccinated for COVID-19 to wear a face mask when entering facilities on our campuses,” RLC President Terry Wilkerson said. “Face masks are optional for those who have been vaccinated.”

Shawnee Community College

Following an email inquiry about his college’s stance on vaccinations, Shawnee Community College President Tim Taylor replied that Shawnee is working with the Southern Seven Health Department to offer on-campus vaccination opportunities, but plans continue for a fall semester return to campus, adhering to the state’s general COVID-19 guidelines.

“We are encouraging everyone including students, faculty and staff to consider getting vaccinated if they are medically able to do so. Those who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks in most indoor spaces or outdoors when on campus. Anyone who is not fully vaccinated is required to continue to properly wear a mask indoors,” Taylor wrote.

Southeastern Illinois College

Angela Wilson, executive director of marketing and public relations at Southeastern Illinois College said her institution also is not requiring student be vaccinated.

“We are not mandating vaccines but will follow generally accepted safety precautions, including disinfecting, wash stations, promoting vaccines, recommending distance, and mask wearing for those who are not vaccinated, among other precautions,” she said.

Wilson added that the college, which is hosting a vaccine clinic during the first two days of the fall semester, Aug. 16-17, is keeping watch on COVID-19 cases and will “evaluate and adapt accordingly.”

48 Olympic athletes with Illinois ties

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Southern Illinois business leader asks in new book, "Why Wait?"
  • Updated

John Nimmo admits he is a procrastinator. He realizes that he often has delayed doing things that might be unpleasant or difficult.  

In that way, he is not much different from the rest of us. Many of us put off until tomorrow what could or should be done today.

Maybe that is why, according to Nimmo, procrastination had been searched 34 million times on Google. It also is why he chose to write a book on the topic, exploring procrastination’s cost to business, to relationships and our happiness as well as what to do about it.

His book, “Why Wait? A Leader’s Perspective on Procrastination,” has reached best seller status on Amazon’s business and personal development categories.

“I think it is a topic that people are so hungry for because we all do it,” Nimmo said. “We’re all seeking solutions that we can put into place in our lives and work settings. It’s a universal problem that I’ve struggled with my whole life. When I started researching procrastination, the thing that intrigued me was the lack of psychological research on procrastination before 1984. Up to that time, people discounted it as laziness. The more I read, the more intrigued I got.”

Nimmo, who owns Southern Real Estate Group in Anna and is a certified executive coach and trainer, said he had personal reasons for authoring a book on procrastination, sharing the story when a routine blood test showed extreme levels of prostate-specific antigen, a potential signal of prostate cancer. A visit with a urologist after a biopsy presented several options: gland removal, radiation or “wait and see.”

In the classic style of a procrastinator, Nimmo chose to do nothing for a while. Eventually, Nimmo underwent another biopsy.

“The second biopsy was really good and the doctor told me that I had less than a 2% chance of dying from prostate cancer,” Nimmo said.

Yet, he understands the risk of waiting. He said it is apparent in every area of life.

“Why did I put that off?” Nimmo wondered. “There have been other things in life, too. Like in the sales profession, we don’t want to make sales calls because we are afraid of rejection. In corporate America, procrastination costs hundreds of thousands of dollars every year — salespeople don’t make calls; an unproductive employee isn’t fired; you deserve a raise, but don’t want to ask.”

He added procrastination impacts our personal lives, too.

“You may need to have a financial conversation with your spouse or there’s something going on in your life that you need to talk about, but you won’t. You always can fill that void with something else,” he said. 

Nimmo explained that the opposite of procrastination is making a decision. He said making small decisions can aid us in overcoming our tendency to procrastinate. He said part of the process is to “reduce to the ridiculous.”

Democratic leaders seek to dismiss redistricting lawsuits

SPRINGFIELD — Lawyers for Illinois’ Democratic legislative leaders last week filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit from Republicans and a Mexican American advocacy group regarding newly drawn legislative maps, calling the challenge “purely speculative” until full U.S. Census data is released.

“It’s 'How can I take this big task and keep reducing it down until it gets small enough that I can do something?'” he said. “That creates motion and it is a law of the universe that any kind of movement reduces friction. So when you make a decision and you take action — no matter how small — it lessens the resistance and the task becomes easier.”

Ultimately, Nimmo said overcoming procrastination is about living each moment free of distraction.

“The big thing is if people were to take a serious look at procrastination and really determine the costs of it ...” he said, using the story of a boss who delays terminating a problem employee as an example. “If I am him and I’ve procrastinated doing it, now I’m at dinner Saturday night and what I am thinking about is what is how I have to have this hard conversation Monday instead of enjoying the meal and being with my wife."

Ultimately, Nimmo said: “It’s a life-stealer because it robs us from being present in the moment; We are focused on everything else. I think that is the key lesson in the book. If we can eliminate procrastination, we can live presently in every moment and not be worried about what we didn’t do last week or yesterday.”

Capitol Breach
Pelosi bars Trump allies from Jan. 6 probe
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rejected two Republicans tapped by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy to sit on a committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, a decision the Republican denounced as "an egregious abuse of power."

McCarthy said the GOP won't participate in the investigation if Democrats won't accept the members he appointed.

Pelosi cited the "integrity" of the probe in refusing to accept the appointments of Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, picked by McCarthy to be the top Republican on the panel, or Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. The two men are outspoken allies of former President Donald Trump, whose supporters laid siege to the Capitol that day and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden's win. Both of them voted to overturn the election results in the hours after the siege.

Democrats have said the investigation will go on whether the Republicans participate or not, as Pelosi has already appointed eight of the 13 members — including Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a Trump critic — and that gives them a bipartisan quorum to proceed, according to committee rules.

Pelosi said she had spoken with McCarthy and told him that she would reject the two names.

"With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee," Pelosi said in a statement.

The move is emblematic of the raw political tensions in Congress that have only escalated since the insurrection and raises the possibility that the investigation — the only comprehensive probe currently being conducted of the attack — will be done almost entirely by Democrats. Pelosi originally tried to create an independent investigation that would have been evenly split between the parties, but Senate Republicans blocked that approach in a vote last month.

McCarthy immediately issued a statement that said her move will damage the institution of Congress.

"Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts," McCarthy said.

Shortly afterward, he blasted the Democratic leader in a news conference with all five members. "The only way to reverse this is to seat these five," McCarthy said.

It is unclear how McCarthy would lead a separate investigation, as the minority does not have the power to set up committees. But he said the panel has lost "all legitimacy" because Pelosi wouldn't allow the Republicans to name their own members.

Most in the GOP have remained loyal to Trump despite the violent insurrection of his supporters that sent many lawmakers running for their lives. McCarthy wouldn't say for weeks whether Republicans would even participate in the probe, but he sent the five names to Pelosi on Monday.

Pelosi accepted McCarthy's three other picks — Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Texas Rep. Troy Nehls. But McCarthy said that all five or none would participate.

Like Jordan and Banks, Nehls voted to overturn Biden's victory. Armstrong and Davis voted to certify the election.

Banks recently traveled with Trump to the U.S.-Mexico border and visited him at his New Jersey golf course. In a statement after McCarthy tapped him for the panel, he sharply criticized the Democrats who had set it up.

"Make no mistake, Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left's authoritarian agenda," Banks said.

Democrats whom Pelosi appointed to the committee earlier this month were angry over that statement, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the private deliberations and who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss them. They were also concerned over Banks' two recent visits with Trump, the person said.

Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, was one of Trump's most vocal defenders during his two impeachments and last month likened the new investigation to "impeachment three." Trump was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate both times.

The back-and-forth came after all but two Republicans opposed the creation of the select committee in a House vote last month, with most in the GOP arguing that the majority-Democratic panel would conduct a partisan probe. Only Cheney and another frequent Trump critic, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, voted in favor of the panel.

Cheney told reporters she agrees with Pelosi's decision to reject Jordan and Banks. "The rhetoric around this from the minority leader and from those two members has been disgraceful," she said.

Pelosi has the authority to approve or reject members, per committee rules, though she acknowledged her move was unusual. She said "the unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision."

The panel will hold its first hearing next week, with at least four rank-and-file police officers who battled rioters that day testifying about their experiences. Dozens of police officers were injured as the crowd pushed past them and broke into the Capitol building.

US life expectancy plummets in 2020
  • Updated

NEW YORK — U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020, the largest one-year decline since World War II, public health officials said Wednesday. The decrease for both Black Americans and Hispanic Americans was even worse: three years.

The drop spelled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, which health officials said is responsible for close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline. More than 3.3 million Americans died last year, far more than any other year in U.S. history, with COVID-19 accounting for about 11% of those deaths.

Black life expectancy has not fallen so much in one year since the mid-1930s, during the Great Depression. Health officials have not tracked Hispanic life expectancy for nearly as long, but the 2020 decline was the largest recorded one-year drop.

The abrupt fall is "basically catastrophic," said Mark Hayward, a University of Texas sociology professor who studies changes in U.S. mortality.

Killers other than COVID-19 played a role. Drug overdoses pushed life expectancy down, particularly for whites. And rising homicides were a small but significant reason for the decline for Black Americans, said Elizabeth Arias, the report's lead author.

Other problems affected Black and Hispanic people, including lack of access to quality health care, more crowded living conditions, and a greater share of the population in lower-paying jobs that required them to keep working when the pandemic was at its worst, experts said.

Life expectancy is an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year might expect to live. It's an important statistical snapshot of a country's health that can be influenced both by sustained trends such as obesity as well as more temporary threats like pandemics or war that might not endanger those newborns in their lifetimes.

For decades, U.S. life expectancy was on the upswing. But that trend stalled in 2015, for several years, before hitting 78 years, 10 months in 2019. Last year, the CDC said, it dropped to about 77 years, 4 months.

Other findings in the new CDC report:

  • Hispanic Americans have longer life expectancy than white or Black Americans, but had the largest decline in 2020. The three-year drop was the largest since the CDC started tracking Hispanic life expectancy 15 years ago.
  • Black life expectancy dropped nearly three years, to 71 years, 10 months. It has not been that low since 2000.
  • White life expectancy fell by roughly 14 months to about 77 years, 7 months. That was the lowest the lowest life expectancy for that population since 2002.
  • COVID-19's role varied by race and ethnicity. The coronavirus was responsible for 90% of the decline in life expectancy among Hispanics, 68% among white people and 59% among Black Americans.
  • Life expectancy fell nearly two years for men, but about one year for women, widening a longstanding gap. The CDC estimated life expectancy of 74 years, 6 months for boys vs. 80 years, 2 months for girls.

More than 80% of last year's COVID deaths were people 65 and older, CDC data shows. That actually diminished the pandemic's toll on life expectancy at birth, which is swayed more by deaths of younger adults and children than those among seniors.

That's why last year's decline was just half as much as the three-year drop between 1942 and 1943, when young soldiers were dying in World War II. And it was just a fraction of the drop between 1917 and 1918, when World War I and a Spanish flu pandemic devastated younger generations.

Life expectancy bounced back after those drops, and experts believe it will this time, too. But some said it could take years.

Too many people have already died from COVID-19 this year, while variants of the coronavirus are spreading among unvaccinated Americans — many of them younger adults, some experts said.

"We can't. In 2021, we can't get back to pre-pandemic" life expectancy, said Noreen Goldman, a Princeton University researcher.