VT officials discuss COVID mitigation efforts as fall semester begins Monday

VT Town Hall On COVID-19 Safety Updates
Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 4:08 PM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia Tech is now requiring the entire university community to get the COVID-19 vaccine, or file for a religious or medical exemption.

Employees are the latest group to be held to this requirement.

President Tim Sands discussed the updated mandate at a virtual town hall Friday.

“With the vaccine requirement for employees that was just announced, I am confident that’ll get to a region where we’ll be in good shape going forward,” Sands said.

This latest COVID mitigation effort comes after the vaccination deadline for students has come and gone.

Currently, 94% of students are fully vaccinated. Another 3-4% have been granted exemptions and 1-2% have not had the means to meet the requirement, according to Mark Owczarski, Virginia Tech’s Associate Vice President for University Relations.

“A very common example of that is our international students, where vaccine availability was simply not available to them,” said Owczarski.

A small number of students are in danger of being permanently shut out of their classes if they do not satisfy the requirement by the course add/drop deadline next Friday.

Faculty, staff, and other university employees have until October 1 to provide proof of vaccination or exemption -- or risk losing their jobs. 82% are currently vaccinated.

“This is an expectation of employment at Virginia Tech now. It is a condition on employment,” said Owczarski. “We’re going to be reaching out, talking to our employees, because our goal is to retain each and every one of them.”

Students and employees who are granted vaccine exemptions will be required to take weekly COVID tests.

Everyone will be required to wear masks indoors. Professor Linsey Marr, an airborne disease expert who joined President Sands for his town hall, explained why.

“If we didn’t have masks, we could easily have some kind of outbreak where people get infected without have severe symptoms of disease, maybe mild symptoms, most likely nothing, but then all those people are contagious and then it seeds more infections,” said Marr.

To view the full town hall conversation, click here.

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