Emma Carlson, Contributing Writer
VCU announced on Monday that COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for all students who plan to live, work or attend classes on campus this upcoming fall semester.
Those with religious or health exemptions are not required to get a vaccine, according to the email announcement.
“Vaccines are now widely available and have proven to be some of the safest, most reliable and effective vaccines in history,” the email stated. “Public health experts tell us that vaccination is the best way to help keep ourselves and our community safe.”
Fully vaccinated individuals will be exempt from mask requirements, daily health checks, surveillance testing and quarantine requirements. Those who are not vaccinated will still be required to participate in all of the above public safety measures, according to the email.
Students returning to campus are required to report their vaccination record to University Student Health Services by July 15, and can do so by logging into the Student Health Web Portal. Students taking summer classes or in the Health Sciences programs should receive and report their vaccinations as soon as possible, according to the university statement.
Masks will be required for all individuals regardless of vaccination status in certain settings, such as University Student Health Services, University Counseling Services and any VCU Health System operated spaces.
Students can schedule on-campus vaccine appointments by logging into their Student Health Web Portal. University Student Health Services is currently offering the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. For vaccines that require two shots, students are required to report both doses. Students can also schedule a vaccination appointment outside of the university with Vaccinate Virginia.
Residence hall common spaces will also require masks for those vaccinated and unvaccinated in accordance with guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in reducing the risk of transmission in congregate housing, or environments where many people gather and reside, according to VCU Division of Student Affairs spokesperson Matt Lovisa.
The CDC recommends that institutes of higher education can safely return to in-person learning without physical distancing or masks if students, faculty and staff members are fully vaccinated prior to the semester’s start. The website also notes that proper mask wear and physical distancing is still recommended for those who do not get vaccinated.
Both the Monroe Park and MCV campuses will be fully operational in the fall, although with reduced capacity. There will be a mix of in-person, hybrid and online-only classes, according to the university.
VCU is currently operating in-person learning at 66 percent capacity, with the potential to increase if public health settings continue to improve, according to the email.
COVID-19 cases are decreasing in Virginia, with the average number of cases per day declining from around 1,000 cases in April to around 300 in June of this year, according to the Virginia Department of Health daily cases dashboard.
The announcement cited the decline of COVID-19 cases and an increase of vaccinations as supporting the mandate. The university also considered feedback from a community survey, where majorities of students, parents and faculty support the vaccine mandate, according to the email.
The university announcement coincides with guidance from the VDH, CDC and the American College Health Association, according to the email.
All available COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing a serious reaction to the virus that can lead to hospitalization or death, according to the VDH website.
“While we know VCU can safely and successfully navigate this new phase together, we all must remain flexible,” the email stated. “Should conditions change, or should new information require us to pivot again, we will.”