Varsha Vasudevan, Contributing Writer
VCU is requiring all students eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster shot to report having one by Feb. 1 for the upcoming spring semester, according to the VCU Together website.
This requirement applies to all VCU students “except those with religious or health exemptions, and students enrolled in VCU’s entirely online programs,” according to the website.
Anju Mathew, a senior studying biomedical engineering, said the required booster shots were an appropriate measure if VCU plans to keep classes in-person.
“I’m okay with it because it seems like classes are still in-person, or there’s in-person activities, so they’re not shutting down campus,” Mathew said. “I understand why they’re doing it.”
University spokesperson Mary Kate Brogan stated in an email this decision was made following recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,Virginia Department of Health and VCU’s own medical experts.
“The decision to require boosters was based on data that pointed to the level of protection vaccines and booster shots provide,” Brogan stated.
The combination of two doses of the vaccine as well as the booster shot is considered “fully vaccinated,” according to an email from ONE VCU: Better Together Master Plan.
Detected in December, the Omicron variant has been found to spread quicker than the “original SARS-Cov-2 virus,” according to the CDC website. The decision to require an additional booster shot for students was announced amidst the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
VCU decided to proceed with in-person classes for the spring semester after weighing the severity of COVID-19 and the “benefits of in-person classes and activities,” Brogan stated.
“VCU’s high student and employee vaccination rates, coupled with our successful mitigating health and safety protocols, led to the decision to continue in-person classes and activities as planned,” Brogan stated.
To mitigate the extreme number of hospitalizations and shortage of tests at VCU Hospital, VCU Health is postponing “non-urgent surgeries and procedures” and encouraging community members to vaccinate,” Brogan stated.
“Many of our hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. This means that vaccination is protecting people from severe illness,” Brogan stated. “We are urging everyone eligible in the community to please get vaccinated or schedule a booster shot.”
In adherence to the CDC’s updated recommendations on quarantining, students who test positive for COVID-19 are now required to quarantine for five days starting from their most recent exposure, according to the VCU Together website.
Senior biomedical engineer Anju Mathew said she disagreed with CDC’s change in guidelines, because of the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others.
“At the end of five days, if you still have COVID-19, you have the chance of spreading it to other people,” Mathew said. “If they [the CDC] said 10 days before was, like, the good standard, I was just confused on why they [the CDC] switched to five days.”
Cat Long, the public information officer in the Richmond and Henrico health districts, said the reduction in the quarantine period was because symptoms presented more quickly with the Omicron variant.
“With some of the other variants, it might take more time between when you’re exposed to when you become positive and develop symptoms, but with the Omicron variant, it’s shorter,” Long said. “We tend to know sooner than previously whether or not we have COVID-19, so we’re able to reduce the quarantine guidelines.”
Along with booster shots, eligible students are required to document vaccination and complete the Responsible Together Course before arriving on campus and cannot participate in activities on campus otherwise, according to the VCU Together website. The requirement for students to be masked indoors has also been maintained by the university, according to the website.
Long said it is permissible for institutions to stay open as long as they monitor the number of outbreaks and ask infected students to stay home.
“For K-12 or colleges, I would not say it’s irresponsible for them to be open,” Long said. “But we just need to make sure that we stay very diligent about all the prevention methods that we have in our toolbox.”