MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With recent decreases in COVID-19 cases across the country and the knowledge that COVID-19 vaccines are extremely safe and effective, West Virginia University now plans to fully reopen its campuses this fall.
According to WVU, as of June 22, a little more than 40% of faculty and staff had been vaccinated and almost 31% of students. WVU’s Dean of Students Corey Farris said students, faculty and staff will not be required to be vaccinated before returning to campus in August.
We’re certainly doing some strong encouragement to have our students and faculty and staff vaccinated. We’re offering a number of incentives that are coming up that we’ve announced some of them. But, the other piece is that we know that from our public health experts, how safe the vaccines are, and so we’re able to allow those who are vaccinated, two weeks after that vaccine, and say that fully vaccinated window, to be able to do some things that those who are not vaccinated — we just can’t let them do. So again, if you’re vaccinated, you won’t need to wear a mask when you’re on or around campus.Corey Farris – Dean of Students, WVU
One benefit that vaccinated students will have, Farris said, is that if they travel out of state, they will no longer need to quarantine when they return.
Furthermore, they will not be subject to routine or random COVID testing that went on last year.
To help slow the spread of the virus, WVU, previously, placed many plexiglass barriers all around the campus, such as in classrooms and dining halls. Some of those barriers will be coming down. That is because those who are vaccinated offer some protection for the larger community against the virus and help to stop its spread.
However, Farris said, the university still remains “very concerned” about those who are unvaccinated and what that could mean for the university population, as well as Morgantown and Monongalia County.
There will be no way to distinguish who is vaccinated or not, and the university will have to rely on an honor system. But, it will have in place a registration system for the vaccinated.
“It’s been open for a month or two now, and so students and faculty and staff are reporting to us if they’re fully vaccinated,” Farris said. But, when it comes to a dining hall, and things like that, we’re not requiring people to show a vaccination card or a green dot on their telephone from an app or anything like that. We don’t have a vaccine passport, and we don’t intend to do that. But again, we’re asking those who aren’t vaccinated to continue to wear their masks and to physically distance and do the other things to keep others who are not vaccinated safe.”
Research continues to show that the vaccines are “incredibly effective”, Farris said, so the university is confident that its vaccinated population will be fine. That is why WVU will just be paying attention to the unvaccinated individuals in the fall and encouraging them to get inoculated.
Vaccinations aside, as someone in charge of student life, Farris said, he is happy about the thought of students returning to a proper college experience.
“I’m excited to see our students back on campus to get the full college experience,” he said. “I mean, WVU is an in-person, residential campus and we’re not an online university we aren’t designed to do that with all the opportunities we have for our students; whether it’s clubs and organization or athletic events, or just hanging out in the Mountainlair. That’s what makes WVU great. I know all of us on campus are excited and can’t wait to welcome our students back face-to-face for a great fall semester and a great spring semester.”