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UVa suspends vaccine mandate for employees

Following a state executive order prohibiting vaccine mandates among state agencies, the University of Virginia is ending its requirement that employees get vaccinated.

Nearly all employees in the Academic Division have received their first two doses and 85% have provided proof of a booster, according to a community message Wednesday from university leadership.

However, all other policies, including the indoor mask requirement and the vaccination and booster requirements for students, remain in place.

UVa’s spring semester began Wednesday and students and employees were required to provide proof of a COVID-19 booster by Jan. 14, the day before Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

“Following our booster deadline, [the governor] signed an executive directive prohibiting state agencies, including institutions of higher education, from requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment,” the message states.

“In light of the governor’s new directive, the small number of employees and faculty who did not comply with the university vaccination deadlines will not face sanctions,” the officials wrote in the message. “We will continue to strongly encourage anyone who has not done so already to get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible.”

The message was signed by UVa President Jim Ryan, Provost Liz Magill, COO J.J. Davis and Dr. K. Craig Kent, CEO of UVA Health.

Other universities have taken similar steps following the executive order, including Virginia Commonwealth University, James Madison, Virginia Tech, Virginia State University and the College of William & Mary.

Although employees in the academic and business sides of the university will not have to meet vaccination mandates, employees in the medical and health division have faced disciplinary action, including firing, if they did not receive the vaccines.

The mandates are in keeping with federal regulations requiring that by Jan. 4 employees of Medicare and Medicaid-participating health care facilities become fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

UVa Health’s deadline for booster shots is Feb. 1, and the vaccination requirement remains in place in order to comply with federal mandates, according to the message.

UVa officials moved up the deadline for booster shots among the academic and business division as an alternative to delaying in-person classes amid a spike in COVID cases.

UVa reported 67 new cases Wednesday and has 409 active cases among students, faculty, staff and contract employees, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.

In response to the rising cases, the university has temporarily prohibited food and beverages at university and student organization-related events on Grounds, including athletics competitions.

That policy will be in effect until Feb. 4 in order to ensure those at the events will be wearing masks when they are around others.

“High vaccination and booster rates within our community mean we are in a very strong position to have a safe and successful spring semester and to protect the most vulnerable people in this community and in the region,” the officials wrote. “We are deeply grateful for the continued vigilance, perseverance and flexibility university faculty and staff have shown throughout this pandemic and are looking forward to continuing to work alongside you this semester.”

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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