COD president explains new mask, vaccine requirements


College of DuPage faculty, staff and students will be required to wear masks inside all COD buildings effective immediately, COD President Brian Caputo announced Monday. This comes after college officials announced last week that masks would be required for the fall semester.

“Face masks will be required in all college buildings for the fall term for all students, faculty, staff, administrators and visitors regardless of vaccination status.” wrote Caputo in an email sent to students on July 29.

Furthermore, beginning on Jan 1, 2022, the college will require all students who wish to take in-person or hybrid courses, faculty, staff and administrators to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

These decisions by COD come after revised CDC guidelines on July 27 recommended that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas of substantial or high transmission rates. DuPage County is currently in that substantial transmission rate category. In addition, on July 19, the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Community College Board recommended all colleges and universities in the state require COVID-19 vaccinations for students this fall.

Caputo said in an interview that these decisions were part of ongoing discussion in weekly cabinet meetings and biweekly Shared Governance Council meetings and were kicked up recently as COVID-19 positivity rates began to rise.

“Things were looking good, rates were going down. And then the Delta variant started to pick up.” Caputo said. The recommendations from the two higher education boards also factored into the decisions.

When asked why vaccinations would not be required until January, Caputo said the college must come up with an infrastructure that will keep track of vaccination records and maintain confidentiality, as well as to give students a chance to receive those vaccines. 

“With an institution of our size, it’s difficult to just issue a directive and expect it to be immediately implemented.” Caputo said, “ What we really need to do is prepare the college community for this.” 

He stressed the fact that the college needed to show sensitivity to all concerns, including students’ expectations when they planned classes earlier this year, but he also reaffirmed that public health was at the forefront in this decision-making process . 

Exemptions of vaccinations for medical or religious reasons will be allowed, but details need to be worked out, according to Caputo. 

“Exactly what form that exemption will take and how we will act upon that exemption is yet to be determined.” Caputo says, “Will those folks be able to come on campus in January wearing masks? …I can’t answer that question yet.”

Weekly local positivity rates and ICU bed availability are metrics being considered when determining masking and vaccination requirements, according to Caputo. He also says that if the circumstances warrant it, the college is willing to change the mask requirement. 

The county’s seven-day rolling positivity rate is at 4.4% as of July 30, with the positivity rate rising since June 21. 

The college recently sent out a survey to 14,269 students, staff and faculty asking about their vaccination status. Overall, the college had a 25% response rate to the survey. Vice President of Planning & Institutional Effectiveness, Jim Benté emphasized that the results of the survey do not completely show the true vaccination rates at the college, due to a low response rate and a possible survey bias in favor of those who are vaccinated. Since many who are unvaccinated may have been afraid to respond to the survey. However, lower vaccination rates and higher unwillingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine within student respondents, who are typically younger than faculty and staff members, is a trend being seen nationwide.