UVA to Require Vaccination for Students as In-Person Operations Resume in Fall

healthcare professional holding pre-filled Pfizer vaccine syringe

Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications

All students who live, learn or work in person at the University of Virginia during the next academic year must be fully vaccinated before returning to Grounds, starting July 1, UVA leaders announced in an email message Thursday.

“This approach will enable our students to return to a residential academic setting where they can live, study, and gather together safely,” the email read. The message was signed by UVA President Jim Ryan, Provost Liz Magill, Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. K. Craig Kent.

Students must upload proof of vaccination to the HealthyHoos Patient Portal no later than July 1. Students can request a medical or religious exemption to the vaccination requirement. If an exemption is granted, they will be subject to weekly COVID-19 testing requirements and likely other public health measures. More details about the exemption process will be available no later than June 15.

Students who are not fully vaccinated and do not qualify for an exemption will not be permitted to come to Grounds after July 1.

The email also contained updates about staff vaccination requirements and other public health measures, some of which are outlined below.

Employee Vaccination

COVID-19 vaccination is strongly encouraged for UVA employees, though not yet required.

“The University expects all UVA and UVA Health faculty and staff who do not have a need for medical or religious exemption to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” the UVA leaders wrote. “We know that many UVA and UVA Health employees are fully vaccinated and others are in the process of completing their doses. Vaccination of our employees is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and the return to regular, in-person experiences.”

University leaders will monitor employee vaccination rates going forward and consult with public health experts as they consider whether to require vaccines for all employees. UVA Health will also communicate directly with its employees about additional policies and requirements necessary for the safety of patients and staff.

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If the University does decide to require COVID-19 vaccines for staff, employees may seek a medical or religious exemption. Those that do, and any employees who are not fully vaccinated, will be subject to mandatory COVID-19 prevalence testing, which will begin this summer. More information about the testing requirements, and how employees can present proof of vaccination, will be shared no later than June 15.

Anyone 12 years and older is now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. Answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccine and opportunities to schedule an appointment are available here. Anyone wishing to make an appointment at UVA can call the UVA COVID Vaccine Call Center at 434-297-4829. 

Updates on Public Health Measures, In-Person Instruction and Return-to-Work Plans

On Friday, UVA announced that community members who are fully vaccinated can forego wearing masks indoors and outdoors, in accordance with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Northam is expected to relax some other public health measures on May 28, and UVA leaders will work with public health experts to monitor those changes and future CDC guidance.

Looking forward to the fall, UVA leaders expect that widespread vaccination will allow most classes to be offered in-person only, without a concurrent virtual option and without the strict spacing and capacity limits needed during the 2020-21 academic year. The Office of the Provost is working with schools to develop accommodations for the small number of students and instructors who may face circumstances that make it impossible to return for in-person instruction.

Academic research is also expected to return to full operations in the fall semester, in alignment with UVA policies on general space use, gathering and travel.

“New practices that evolved to support safe engagement in the internal and external research community will continue to inform the expansion of research activity in the fall,” the leaders wrote. “We look forward to welcoming more faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs, and research staff to in-person research on Grounds in the fall.”

With the return to full in-person learning and living for students, many UVA employees also will need to work in-person. However, leaders acknowledged that the past year of remote work has offered some lessons in flexible working arrangements.

“Many who directly support our missions of teaching, research, service, and patient care will need to be physically present,” they wrote. “We do want to acknowledge that our adaption to new ways of working during the pandemic has taught us valuable lessons about how to creatively approach our work in the future.”

A group of experts from around the University has been charged with developing recommendations about the future of work at UVA, with recommendations expected no later than July 1. In the meantime, schools and units will continue to refine their return-to-work plans and work with employees on flexible working arrangements.

Finally, the email offered a glimpse of residential student life in the fall, which is expected to be much more normal. First-year students will once again be expected to live on Grounds in UVA dormitories, with few exceptions.

Dining, transportation, IM-Rec facilities and other important services will return to pre-pandemic operations, and clubs, student organizations, performing arts groups, intramural sports teams and other groups are expected to be able to meet, practice, perform and play as they normally would.

UVA Athletics is also planning to welcome spectators to the stands more fully, starting with the fall sports seasons. Decisions about capacity, physical distancing and public health requirements will be based on current guidance from the CDC and the Commonwealth of Virginia when those seasons begin.

“As we look back on an academic year where the pandemic changed every part of life at UVA, the availability and effectiveness of the vaccines will make it possible for all of us to live, learn, and work together in more ‘normal’ ways in the year to come,” Ryan, Magill, Davis and Kent concluded. “We will continue to provide you with updates as we finalize the details for how things like prevalence testing will work next semester. Thank you, as always, for making this extraordinary year possible.”

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