Board of Governors at WVU passes on vaccine mandate, reviews improved numbers from last year

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University Board of Governors met Friday and passed on implementing a vaccine mandate. University officials told board members mitigation strategies are working, vaccination numbers are up and rates of infection are much lower than last year.

Maryanne Reed, provost and vice president of academic affairs for West Virginia University said it has been a team effort between students and faculty to maintain academic progress one year after the infection rate sent all classes online.

“We are again asking our instructors to be patient and flexible with our students and provide them with reasonable accommodations,” Reed said,” Providing them class notes or allowing them to make up assignments because we don’t want students to feel pressured to come to class if they aren’t feeling well.”

Vice president of strategic initiatives, Rob Alsop said isolation numbers have dropped about 47 percent from last year relieving much of the staff burden. Lower numbers also mean less contact tracing which has been a very labor intensive process in areas with high infection rates. Additionally, this year many more activities are open like Up All Night and WVU Recreation Center.

“About this point in time last year we had paused and moved all our courses online because of the skyrocketing cases,” Alsop said,” This year paints a different picture even though we have a lot more activity on our campus. Last year we had more than 900 in quarantine and this year we have less than 200.”

Classrooms are still euipped with plexiglass barriers, masks are again mandatory in indoor areas and social distancing remains an important part of the mitigation strategy.

When the Delta variant began to sweep across the state university officials raised the vaccination goal from 70-percent to 85-percent. Campus efforts to educate have resulted in about 77-percent of students and 74-percent of employees getting the shot.

“Almost 92-percent of our instructors are vaccinated, our residence hall students are at 79-percent,” Alsop said,” I give our Greek leadership a lot of credit, they set out to have their group highly vaccinated. They were a group where there was a lot of spread of COVID last year- we have not seen that this year.”

Vaccination rates on campus are still climbing. Alsop noted very productive conversations with the Faculty Assembly that has asked for a vaccine mandate effective January 1. Despite an additional calls for a mandate from the Student Government Association, Alsop said the current strategy will remain in place.

“Our best and most effective strategy will be to continue to convince folks because there’s a lot vaccine hesitancy out there,” Alsop said,” Hopefully that hesitancy will wane when folks continue to see these vaccine safe very safe and very effective.”

Unlike last year, a normal fall schedule will continue. Fall break will be observed October 7 and 8, fall recess will be from November 20 through 28 and final exams are scheduled from December 13 through 17.

“I think our kids and the president has indicated it- they are thrilled to be back,” Alsop said,” Our results from our protections have been good and if we have to move additionally from this comprehensive strategy we’ll do so.”