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Some Virginia universities ease mask mandate for vaccinated students, faculty, staff

Virus Outbreak Virginia Graduation
Virginia Tech class of 2020 graduates and former roommates, Sarah Carey, from left, Sarah Morgan and Marybeth Myers gather in a queue for graduates outside Lane Stadium prior to a special ceremony recognizing the class of 2020 in Blacksburg, Va., Wednesday, May 12 2021. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) Matt Gentry/AP

Some Virginia universities ease mask mandate for vaccinated students, faculty, staff

May 21, 04:00 PM May 21, 04:00 PM

Some Virginia universities have eased their mask mandates for those who have been fully vaccinated to follow more closely with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Universities that officially made mask changes for vaccinated people include the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University and Old Dominion University.

“Based on the advice of University medical experts, we are pleased to inform you that the University will follow the advice of the CDC and the Governor and update our policy so that UVA community members who are fully vaccinated can now safely forego masks both indoors and outdoors,” UVA President Jim Ryan said in a statement with other university leaders.

The university still will require those who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks while around others, whether it be indoors or outdoors. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after he or she receives his or her final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The university will maintain social distancing rules and limits on gatherings for the time being.

UVA will continue to monitor changes in state and federal guidance as vaccine numbers continue to increase, the statement read. As those changes happen, the university will adapt those recommendations to the needs of the university community.

Mask rules will still remain in effect in the UVA Health medical center, clinics and other health care settings.

Virginia Tech also released an update, which said it will follow the CDC guidelines. Those who are vaccinated can forgo masks in most settings. However, masks still are required in public transit, health care facilities and congregate settings, such as classrooms and shared spaces in residence halls.

The university will maintain social distancing rules, which may change upon new guidance from federal, state or local authorities. Research lab groups in which all students are vaccinated will not need to social distance, but face masks still are encouraged in those settings. Those who are not vaccinated are expected to wear face coverings and socially distance when in lab settings.

Virginia Commonwealth University will allow those vaccinated to forgo their masks but only when social distancing can be maintained. A person who is not fully vaccinated will be required to wear face coverings even when social distancing can be maintained. Masks still will be required in VCU Health and its clinics, regardless of whether one is vaccinated.

“We recognize that some members of our community may feel more comfortable wearing masks even after they have been fully vaccinated,” a statement from VCU read. “Please be respectful of those who make that decision, and refrain from drawing conclusions as to vaccination status based on an individual’s choice to wear a mask.”

Old Dominion University officially updated its mask guidance for faculty and staff but has not provided an update. University spokesperson Giovanna Genard said new guidelines for students would be forthcoming.

Fully vaccinated faculty and staff no longer will need to wear face coverings or social distance indoors or outdoors. Those who are not vaccinated will need to wear face masks indoors and outdoors when they cannot maintain social distancing.

Neither James Madison University nor George Mason University have updated their mask guidelines. Masks still are required for people who cannot maintain social distancing indoors or outdoors at both universities.

Mary-Hope Vass, a spokesperson for James Madison University, told The Center Square the university soon will update its summer guidelines. The Center Square also reached out to George Mason University, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

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