WVU temporarily reinstates mask requirements

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Testing by the WVU Center for Inhalation Toxicology on the effectiveness of the gaiter face covering shown here found that it provides a respiratory containment of exhaled droplets comparable to a common over-the-ear cloth mask. WVU Photo/Dave Ryan

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University is temporarily revising its masking guidelines. Beginning Wednesday, Aug. 18, and for the next 30 days, masks will be required for everyone in classrooms and research labs, including those who are teaching, on all campuses – regardless of vaccination status.

In line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University continues to strongly encourage all students, faculty, staff and visitors to wear masks in all other indoor areas of campus.

WVU said it is making this shift based on a variety of factors, including increasing evidence that a booster may be needed as immunity provided by vaccines is waning over time. Another factor is that many faculty, staff and students have not yet submitted a vaccine verification or negative COVID-19 test result. Many have also failed to complete the required COVID-19 education module.

Currently, vaccination verification rates across the WVU system are as follows:

  • Morgantown Staff/Faculty –67.49%
  • Morgantown Students – 68.43%
  • Keyser Staff/Faculty –62.56%
  • Keyser Students –34.38%
  • Beckley Staff/Faculty – 70.75%
  • Beckley Students –42.60%

More than 10,000 students, faculty and staff who have not verified that they are vaccinated are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result by Friday, Aug. 20. To date, fewer than 15% of those unverified students, faculty and staff have done so. Also, approximately 8,000 students, faculty and staff have not completed the required COVID-19 education module, even though the deadline to do so was Tuesday.

WVU believes it has not seen an adequate progression of vaccination verification to feel confident it would reach 80% by Sept. 1 and has chosen to move forward with additional safety measures on campus.

“We have always stated that our highest priority is to offer a fully in-person, on-campus academic and student experience this fall,” said Maryanne Reed, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Based on the data we have, the additional temporary measure of masking will provide an extra layer of protection for the academic settings.”

The University strongly encourages everyone to follow the CDC recommendations of wearing a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status. It is also encouraging virtual options to be offered for all meetings and gatherings for those who prefer not to attend in person.

University encourages vaccination

COVID-19 cases within West Virginia have increased in recent days. As of Aug. 17, there were 7,017 active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia, and the daily cumulative percent positivity was at 5%.

These numbers, as well as information regarding the delta variant, provided additional data to change course.

“This variant is much more infectious than we have seen with other strains of COVID-19,” said Dr. Jeffrey Coben, dean of the School of Public Health and associate vice president for Health Affairs. “The delta variant is highly contagious, and we know it is affecting younger patients more intensely and at higher rates.”

WVU Medicine recently updated masking guidance for all employees who work at non-clinical, administrative sites, including the Health Sciences campuses in MorgantownEastern and Charleston. Masks are required in all patient care clinics including those located in the Health Sciences building.

Health experts agree that properly fitted, layered masks are a necessary and effective extra layer of protection, but that a COVID-19 vaccination is still the single most important and successful tool available.

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

At this time, vaccinations are not required for WVU students and employees. However, the University will reevaluate vaccination requirements upon full FDA approval.

Vaccine and testing site locations

West Virginia University will host a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic in partnership with the Monongalia County Health Department for students, faculty and staff on the Morgantown campus, as well as members of the community, on Wednesday, Aug. 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Mountainlair Green.

No appointment is necessary, and the clinic will offer the Pfizer vaccine on a first-come, first-served basis, and both first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be available. Children aged 12 to 17 will be eligible to receive a vaccine at the clinic if they are accompanied by a legal guardian.

The university also continues 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.

Testing will be extended Aug. 18 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 19 to accommodate high volume and those who need be complete testing by Friday, Aug. 20. Community testing is open to WVU studentsemployees 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 Tech campus are available on the Beckley Return to Campus website.

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

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.

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