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UVa employees must get vaccinated by Dec. 8, officials announce

University of Virginia officials announced Thursday that all employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 or face suspension or possible termination, as the university works to comply with a September executive order issued by President Joe Biden.

Biden’s Executive Order 14042, signed on Sept. 9, requires that employees working for organizations that have contracts with the federal government be fully vaccinated.

Liz Magill, UVa Provost, and J.J. Davis, chief operating officer, wrote in a memo to employees that the sanctions are “due to the scope of the president’s order.” All university employees must be fully vaccinated the deadline, unless they have a university-approved religious or medical exemption.

Contractors, including UVa, are required by the order to “ensure that all individuals, including … employees and visitors, comply with published [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance for masking and physical distancing at a covered contractor workplace,” White House officials wrote in a Sept. 14 blog post.

The order includes masking and social distance requirements for workplaces, but officials wrote that those “do not apply to the residences of covered contractor employees.”

“These safeguards will decrease the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which will decrease worker absence, reduce labor costs, and improve the efficiency of contractors and subcontractors performing work for the federal government,” White House officials said.

Because UVa receives federal funds and grants, including federal funds funneled through the state government, its employees fall under the executive order, officials said.

“Like many other institutions around the country, we have determined that compliance with President Biden’s executive order is vital to ensure that we do not risk losing millions in federal contract dollars that support important research and education work here at UVa,” Davis and Magill wrote.

Dozens of colleges and universities across the commonwealth and the country are making similar rules.

UVa officials and legal consultants reviewed Biden’s order and determined that the school must have all full-time and part-time employees, including employees who work remotely, get their shots.

“Under this updated policy, employees will no longer be permitted to elect not to be vaccinated or to test as an alternative to vaccination,” Magill and Davis wrote. “After Dec. 8, anyone who is not in compliance, either by being vaccinated or receiving a university-approved exemption, will be subject to disciplinary action consistent with the university’s policies, up to and including unpaid leave or termination.”

The ruling also includes employees working in the UVa Medical Center, School of Medicine, University Physicians Group, Health Sciences Library, and Community Medicine, regardless of their employer.

More than 95% of UVa employees are currently vaccinated, according to school officials. Those who are not vaccinated must apply for a medical or religious exemption to the mandate before Oct. 28.

“If you do not intend to apply for such an exemption and are not yet vaccinated, we encourage you to make your appointment for a vaccine as soon as possible in order to ensure that you meet the deadline,” Davis and Magill wrote.

Employees who opt to receive the Moderna vaccine should get the first shot by Oct. 27 and the second by Nov. 24, according to UVa officials. That would make them fully vaccinated by the Dec. 8 deadline.

Employees who receive the Pfizer vaccine should get their first shots by Nov. 3 and their second by Nov. 24.

Those who receive the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine need to get their shots on or before Nov. 24.

According to the National Law Review’s analysis of decisions made by several federal agencies that must interpret the presidential order into rules, colleges and universities that receive any federal funds must comply.

“For federal contractors with campus environments but only one building where federal work is performed, guidance states that the requirements apply to all the buildings and employees and visitors at each building,” the publication’s review, written by Laura A. Mitchell and F. Christopher Chrisbens, states.

The authors said the vaccination requirement also applies to employees of federal contractors who do not work on or in connection with a federal contract.

“A covered employee, for purposes of the mandate, includes any full-time or part-time employee who works at a location at which an employee working on or in connection with a contract is likely to be present,” the publication states. “So, an employee performing solely commercial work in a facility, building, or campus where contract work is also being performed would likely be subject to the mandate.”

UVa recently announced that proof of vaccination will be a requirement for fans to enter John Paul Jones Arena for any public, private or university function, including concerts and sports events.

The school currently requires all visitors and employees to wear masks inside buildings and facilities owned or occupied by the university. That includes the bathrooms, hallways and concession stands at Scott Stadium.

UVa officials have said they would review the masking policy by Nov. 1 to determine if it is still needed.

“We are continuing to monitor the progression of the pandemic and will communicate with you again before Nov. 1 about the university’s public health policies and any changes we may make in response to changes in case counts or vaccination rates,” Magill and Davis wrote.


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