Emma Carlson, Contributing Writer
On Monday, VCU announced an indoor mask mandate throughout the university and a continuation of the mandate in health system facilities, effective immediately.
The more contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has called for updated public health policies, such as reinstating indoor mask requirements for vaccinated individuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“No one is happy that this pandemic surge is causing us to take these steps,” the university’s announcement stated. “But the science behind these public health measures is clear. Doing so will help protect you from getting sick and protect those around you who are particularly vulnerable to the virus.”
This policy aligns with CDC recommendations for all individuals to wear masks indoors or in public spaces if they are in an area of high transmission for COVID-19. Both Richmond City and Henrico County are considered areas of high transmission, according to the CDC.
The announcement added that wearing a mask combined with a COVID-19 vaccination can “greatly reduce the transmission of COVID-19.”
In addition, VCU and VCU Health System employees will be required to get a vaccine. Employees have until September 1 to report their first dose or apply for a religious or health exemption, according to the announcement.
As of August 6, VCU’s vaccination dashboard displays that 71% of students have submitted their vaccination record, with 2.9% having received exemptions. Among faculty, 85% have reported their vaccination status.
The deadline to submit vaccination status for students was July 15. Those who failed to report their vaccine or apply for an exemption will have holds placed on their student accounts and will not be able to make changes to their fall class schedules.
The CDC currently recommends that colleges and universities with a fully vaccinated population do not have to follow mask mandates and social distancing practices. Communities with a population of both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals are urged to consider a few factors when implementing public health policies. These include the level of community transmission of COVID-19, percentage of vaccinated individuals, vigilant testing and more, according to the CDC website.
VCU’s Public Health Response Team provides recommendations on public health policies for the university. In addition to the CDC’s recommendations, the team considers factors such as the rate of positive COVID-19 tests among the university population, hospital capacity and available isolation space when determining guidelines.
“We believe these mitigation strategies –– including vaccination and masking –– will be effective, at which point we can assess the need to continue requiring masks at the university,” the announcement stated.