VCU drops mask requirements for vaccinated public, updates COVID-19 safety guidelines

Students with masks walk around campus at the start of the fall 2020 semester. Photo by Jon Mirador

Natalie Barr, Contributing Writer 

VCU students, faculty members and staff who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are no longer required to wear masks indoors or outdoors when physical distancing can be maintained, according to a university announcement emailed to students on Tuesday. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an updated mask guidance on May 13, stating that individuals who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks. Gov. Ralph Northam amended Executive Order 72, which outlined original restrictions, on May 14, in order to match the CDC’s guidance in Virginia. 

Action from the CDC and Northam prompted VCU’s Public Health Response Team to update the campus’ guidelines, which are in immediate effect.

“The new guidance is possible because more people are choosing to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19,” the announcement stated.

The updated guidance does not apply to VCU Health and the campus medical clinics, as those individuals are still required to wear masks. The announcement recommends students enrolled in summer classes, attending internships or medical clinicals outside of VCU’s campus to inquire about mask policies. The statement also encouraged people to check mask requirements for public transportation use and businesses before entering without wearing a mask. 

“We recognize that some members of our community may feel more comfortable wearing masks even after they have been fully vaccinated,” the announcement stated. “Please be respectful of those who make that decision.”

As of May 18, over 7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Virginians through the state COVID-19 vaccination program, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Thirty-eight percent of Virginia’s population is fully vaccinated while 48.7% of Virginians have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Individuals are considered to be fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC. Those who aren’t fully vaccinated should wear masks both indoors and outdoors when physical distance guidelines can’t be met, according to the VCU statement.

“VCU strongly recommends that members of the community get vaccinated as soon as possible,” the announcement stated.

In Virginia, indoor mask mandates have been lifted in accordance with CDC guidance. Northam stated that the decline of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and percent positive tests will continue to influence restrictions in Virginia to ease in some cases, according to Executive Order 72’s amendment

VCU faculty members and students who are fully vaccinated are exempt from quarantine, surveillance testing and daily health check requirements, according to the announcement. Students can submit COVID-19 vaccination records through University Student Health Services to be exempt. Employees can report their vaccination status to the university through an online portal.

Students and faculty members can schedule a vaccination appointment with University Student Health Services online at health.students.vcu.edu, or by calling 804-828-8828. Information on the COVID-19 vaccine and ways to schedule an appointment outside of VCU can be found on vaccinefinder.org. 

We will continue to monitor for additional updates to the CDC’s interim guidance and will notify the VCU community of changes to our health and safety protocols,” the announcement stated.Thank you for your continued support in keeping our community safe.”

Executive Editor Iman Mekonen contributed to this report.

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