WVU provides additional guidance for fall 2021, plans Return to Campus Conversation

Monongalia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University is providing additional guidance to students, faculty and staff as campuses prepare to fully reopen for the fall 2021 semester.

COVID-19 cases within the U.S. and West Virginia have increased in recent weeks. The delta variant has gained momentum, especially among young adults and the unvaccinated. As of Aug 2), there were 2,480 active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia, and the daily cumulative percent positivity was 4.93%. 

Rob Alsop

We have been concerned about the delta variant. I mean, I think it’s something that if you look at some of the other states where it is, as you mentioned, spreading rapidly, we do think it’s something that in some level will make its way to West Virginia as it moves through. And so, it is something we’re concerned about. You know, we’re very glad that those who are protected from serious or significant illness from the Delta variant. But what the data is showing is that you still can catch COVID if you have the delta variant, it can breakthrough and that you do have a potential even if you’re vaccinated of transmitting it. And so, that’s where you know we have indicated that you know everybody, regardless of vaccination status, we strongly recommend that you consider wearing that mask and that we continue to push for vaccines moving forward to move through this. 

Rob Alsop, WVU’s Vice President for Strategic Initiatives

At this time, 59% of WVU faculty and staff and 60% of students on the Morgantown campus have verified they are fully vaccinated. This number is below the 70% threshold previously needed by Aug. 1 to hold a large concert-like FallFest this academic year. 

West Virginia University’s highest priority is to offer a fully in-person, on-campus academic and student experience this fall. As always, the safety of students, faculty, staff and guests will continue to be an important guiding factor.

WVU strongly encourages everyone to be vaccinated and to verify their vaccine status at http://myhousing.wvu.edu

“The first thing, far and away, is if you have not chosen to get a vaccine, do so,” Alsop said. “They are safe, they are effective and they protect you from serious illness from COVID-19. And if there’s anything else that we say, or the top thing that we say, it’s if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated.”

As of today (Aug. 3), WVU’s campuses have the following vaccination rates: 

Morgantown
Staff/Faculty—58.75%
Students—59.79%

Keyser
Staff/Faculty—27.88%
Students— 26.00%

Beckley
Staff/Faculty—59.29%
Students—34.49%

The University still has a goal to attain a vaccination rate for its employees and students of at least 80%. Given the increasing prevalence of the delta variant, if the WVU community does not reach 80% fully vaccinated by Sept. 1, the University will develop additional enforcement and safety protocols for those who are unvaccinated, including increased testing frequency and penalties for failure to comply with COVID-19 related requirements.

Please note the following details for the fall semester may be adjusted based on infection and hospitalization rates and input from health experts. The University has re-instituted its COVID-19 incident command center and will be monitoring local and campus trends throughout the 2021-22 academic year. 

Unless noted, this information pertains to WVU campuses in Morgantown, Keyser and Beckley, as well as Health Sciences campuses in Martinsburg and Charleston. WVU Medicine and patient care clinics located in Health Sciences have their own set of policies, procedures and protocols for staff, patients and visitors.

Vaccines

All employees and students will be required to take a new COVID-19 educational module prior to Aug. 17. The module will be available later this week at go.wvu.edu/covidmodule

“I did mine the first day it came through just to test and see they’re really easy,” Alsop said. “What it does is it goes through and it gives you a bunch of information about COVID, its transmissibility, vaccinations, masks, a lot of information. And then you take a little quiz to see how you did and so if you get it wrong, it educates you on what you got wrong. If you get it right, then it reinforces it. Our goal with that is just to get everybody as they come back to campus just to get that extra little thought process about making sure that they’re personally accountable as it relates to COVID-19 going forward. And I don’t have the specific numbers in front of me, but I know that we’ve had good success as we’re still nine, 10 days away from the first day classes in folks going through that module, so it’s really, an educational piece as part of our overall strategy.” 

At this time, vaccinations are not required for WVU students and employees but are strongly encouraged. The University will reevaluate vaccination requirements upon full FDA approval.

Students, faculty and staff who have verified to WVU that they have been vaccinated will not be required to undergo COVID-19 testing at the beginning of the semester.

Further, those who have verified that they have been vaccinated will be exempted from random sample testing throughout the semester.

Those who have yet to be vaccinated, but would like to be, can find available vaccination appointments at http://vaccines.gov. Vaccines continue to be readily available across the country.

All students, faculty and staff must verify their vaccine status at http://myhousing.wvu.edu. This video explains the steps and information needed to complete verification. Students, faculty and staff can still verify their vaccines throughout the fall semester if they choose to be vaccinated at a later date. 

Those who received the vaccine from a WVU or WVU Medicine vaccine clinic are still responsible for verifying their vaccine status.

Students, faculty or staff who believe they are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons may apply for an exemption and accommodation. Employees can fill out a modification request or email coronavirusmodification@mail.wvu.edu. Students should contact Accessibility Services at 304-293-6700 or access2@mail.wvu.edu

Students, faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated and to verify their vaccine status. WVU Graphic

Testing

All students who will be on campus this fall and/or who are not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or did not verify they are vaccinated with the University by Aug. 1, are required to submit a valid negative COVID-19 test result prior to attending class.

Additionally, faculty, staff and students who have not verified that they are vaccinated must:

  • Comply with random sample testing until they become fully vaccinated.
  • Quarantine for at least 14 days following close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19. 
  • Obtain testing if symptoms develop.
  • Quarantine for five days following out-of-state travel.
  • Wear a mask indoors and when outdoors and around others.

Individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated, who are close contacts of someone who has tested positive, will need to be tested, according to new CDC guidelines. Those guidelines also require that vaccinated individuals who are exposed to the virus wear a mask until a negative test at 3-5 days is obtained, or for 14 days if untested. If vaccinated individuals test positive, they must follow the 10-day isolation guidelines. 

Additional fall testing information for students and employees is available at the Return to Campus website.

Students and employees who fail to comply with COVID-19 testing requirements may be subject to discipline in accordance with the University’s policies and procedures.

The University will continue to partner with the Monongalia County Health Department to hold optional free COVID-19 community testing during the fall semester on Mondays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon and Wednesdays from noon to 3 p.m. in the WVU Student Recreation Center’s lower gym. Community testing is open to WVU students, employees and residents of Monongalia County. Hours may be increased based on demand and testing requirements.

Locations for testing and testing verification for students, faculty and staff on the WVU Beckley campus are available on the Beckley Return to Campus website.

Similarly, testing information for students, faculty and staff located at WVU Keyser can be found on the WVU Keyser Return to Campus site.

Students, faculty and staff located at the WVU Health Sciences Charleston and Martinsburg campuses should stay tuned for specific guidance on testing protocols for those campuses ahead of the fall semester.

WVU will resume weekly COVID-19 updates through a dashboard on the Return to Campus website, which will feature testing information as well as vaccination rates.

Masks

Those not fully vaccinated are expected to wear a mask while inside all University facilities and outdoors when around other people.

Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear a mask indoors or outdoors on campus but may choose to.

“We’re strongly encouraging that everybody should put a mask on indoors, particularly, when they’re around a lot of people on our campus,” Alsop said. “We are expecting those who are not vaccinated to wear a mask, but if you are not, if you are fully vaccinated, you are not required to wear a mask indoors or outdoors on our campus.” 

However, the University is following CDC guidelines which do outline additional protection measures in light of the delta variant, its rate of transmission and the uptick in cases. 

The CDC has recommended that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. Recently, Monongalia County has at times been an area of substantial transmission. Although not a requirement, the WVU is recommending that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals wear a mask in public indoor settings, particularly in crowded areas. 

The rate of breakthrough cases from the delta variant in the vaccinated community in the U.S. is less than 1%. However, vaccinated individuals who would like extra protection can wear masks indoors to be protected from the delta variant and are encouraged to do so.  

Those who are unvaccinated are the most at-risk for developing serious symptoms from COVID-19, being hospitalized and dying. There is also a risk to carry the delta variant back to family members, especially those who may have suppressed immune systems such as the elderly or children under the age of 12 who are not allowed to be vaccinated yet. 

Consistent with federal guidelines for public transportation, masks will be required for everyone on all WVU transportation including the PRT and buses through at least Sept. 13, as per Transportation Security Administration guidance.

Academics and Research

Classrooms will be at 100% capacity this fall. The University will follow a regular academic calendar, grading scale and attendance policies. Seating charts and seat assignments will still be required to assist in contact tracing when necessary.

Everyone in the classroom – including fully vaccinated individuals – are recommended to wear a mask. However, vaccinated individuals are not required to wear a mask. Unvaccinated individuals are expected to wear a mask in the classroom. 

Plexiglass will be available for faculty who wish to use it. In addition, hand sanitizer and cleaning materials will be available in the classroom or nearby hallway.

The University will continue to evaluate study abroad opportunities on a case-by-case basis.

Non-human subject research activities resumed at 100% capacity effective June 20. Human research should continue under previous spring 2021 guidance while any potential changes are pending.

Student Life

The PRT and WVU buses will run on normal schedules at 100% capacity.

Dining halls will open at 100% capacity with safety measures and enhanced cleaning procedures in place. Plexiglass dividers will be available in dining facilities for those who would like to use them.

The Student Rec Center has resumed operations at 100% capacity. Unvaccinated individuals are expected to wear a mask inside the facility.

Student organizations can organize and gather but should consider the impact of the delta variant on their membership. Due to the delta variant, student organizations are asked to consider hybrid meetings if at all possible during the fall semester. 

Additionally, club and intramural sports can resume practice and competition without restrictions. It is recommended that general meetings be held virtually. Any practice or conditioning should be held outdoors whenever possible. Individuals who are unvaccinated and travel outside the state (for competition or other purposes) are subject to a 5-day quarantine/self-monitoring period upon return. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, other unvaccinated teammates also may be required to quarantine upon completion of contact tracing. This will reduce team size until the quarantine period ends.

Unvaccinated individuals are expected to wear a mask at these events.

WVUp All Night will resume in-person activities, catering to both large and small groups, as well as providing some virtual experiences. Unvaccinated individuals are expected to wear a mask at these events.

Residence Halls

Photo courtesy of WVU

Residence hall move-in will take place from Thursday, Aug. 12 through Saturday, Aug. 14. There is no limit to the number of family members who can help move students into their residence hall rooms. Unvaccinated individuals are expected to wear a mask.

A limited number of volunteers will be available to assist those moving into residence halls during move-in.

Guests are welcome to visit residence halls throughout the semester as well, following standard visitation policies. Unvaccinated visitors must follow University guidelines and are expected to wear masks.

The move-in process for University Apartments, including College Park, University Park, University Place and Vandalia, began on Saturday, Aug. 1 and will continue through Friday, Aug. 13.

New students at WVU Tech will move in on Friday, Aug. 13 through Sunday, Aug. 15. Returning students will move in on Monday, Aug. 16 and Tuesday, Aug. 17. Additional information is available at the Return to Campus website.

New students at WVU Potomac State College will move in on Saturday, Aug. 14. Returning students will move in on Sunday, Aug. 15. Additional information is available on the Student Experience Fall 2021 Move-in webpage.

Welcome Week

The University will offer a variety of activities —including some traditional Welcome Week activities and some new offerings — beginning on Aug. 12 and continuing through Aug. 20. Due to the delta variant of COVID-19, masks are recommended at larger events. 

Mountaineer MovieFest will take place Sunday, Aug. 15 at the WVU Coliseum.

Members of the Class of 2024 (sophomores only) will visit Mountaineer Field on Aug. 15 for Sunday Night Lights. Incoming first-time students will follow on Aug. 16 for Monday Night Lights. Both nights will include traditional activities including the opportunity to take a class photo. Masks will be required during the class photo at the event. Masks will be available at the stadium entrance and prior to the class photo. 

On Tuesday, Aug. 17, at 3 p.m., students are invited to join the WVU Student Recreation Center’s 20th-anniversary celebration.

A variety of student organizations and job fairs, adventure, recreation and service activities will also be available for new and returning students between Aug. 13-17. Academic sessions also will be scheduled.

Visit the 2021 Welcome Week website for the full schedule of events.

Employee Expectations and Parking

The University has developed plans and guidelines for employees to ensure continued adaptation of new ways of working and operating in as safe a manner as possible.

To prepare to reconfigure the workspace within many campus buildings and introduce new programs, policies and services for remote, hybrid or on-site employees, supervisors were asked this spring to confirm or update the long-term work arrangements for their direct reports in the Applaud HR system. The information was used to prepare Telecommuting Agreements for employees who would continue working in a remote or hybrid capacity. Employee Relations emailed agreements to those employees, including those from WVU Research Corp., this summer.

Telecommuting Agreements are effective July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022 (or at such time that there are changes to an employee’s job status or position that may require a different work arrangement).

WVU also deployed a special parking program for hybrid and remote employees that includes a daily parking pass/rate versus an annual pass/monthly rate. The rate for one-day permits for the Downtown, Evansdale, College of Law and Health Sciences Center campus is $5 per day, and permits can be purchased online via the Parking Portal. In addition to the $5 daily rate option, hybrid and remote employees who have parking permits for the garage at One Waterfront Place may choose to keep their permits and pay a reduced rate of $20 per month.

For additional information or questions, contact the Parking Management Office at 304-293-5502 or email transportation@mail.wvu.edu.

Travel

Fully vaccinated individuals may resume non-business travel activities. However, they should note travel restrictions and safety guidance in the intended travel area.

University-related business travel will remain limited and require prior approval from a unit vice president or dean. Travel related to externally funded projects does not require vice president or dean approval. A justification for travel will be required if a virtual attendance option exists.

Events

In-person events have resumed on campus at 100% capacity. The Health and Safety Committee does not need to approve events but does recommend organizers use best practices. It is recommended events take place outdoors if possible, and plated or pre-packaged meals are preferred if food is served. Hand sanitizer should be made readily available at the event. Masks are expected for those who have yet to be vaccinated.

In addition, concerts, plays and shows organized by WVU Arts & Entertainment have resumed on campus at 100% capacity. Masks are expected for those who have yet to be vaccinated.

Athletics events will also be held at 100% capacity.

Visitors on Campus

Departments and units will be responsible for sharing University policy and practices with visitors they invite to campus. All visitors, including vendors and contractors, will need to continue to follow University safety guidelines while on campus; unvaccinated visitors are expected to wear a mask while on campus.

Departments and units should continue to use good judgment when determining when to bring visitors to campus (e.g. interview job candidates via Zoom before bringing final candidates to campus).

The Visitors Centers are operating at normal capacity for tours and visits. Guests are asked to follow University safety guidelines while on campus; unvaccinated visitors are expected to wear a mask while on campus and all visitors must wear a mask while on University transportation through at least Sept. 13.

More Information

The campus community is invited to join a Return to Campus Conversation Thursday (Aug. 5) from 10-11:15 a.m. to hear from administrators and ask them questions. Questions can be submitted or emailed to returntocampus@mail.wvu.edu.

Stay tuned to enews.wvu.edu and MOUNTAINEER E-News — as well as students.wvu.edu and U-news — for additional updates about the fall semester.

In the meantime, visit the Return to Campus website for the latest information.

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