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.
WVU Vice President Rob Alsop said vaccination rates on campus are still climbing. He said there have been productive conversations with the Faculty Assembly which asked for a vaccine mandate effective Jan. 1, 2021. 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.”
When the Delta variant began to sweep across the state, WVU officials raised the vaccination goal from 70% to 85%. Campus efforts to educate have resulted in about 77% of students and 74% of employees getting the shot.
“Almost 92% of our instructors are vaccinated, our residence hall students are at 79%,” 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.”
Alsop said isolation numbers have dropped about 47% 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.”
WVU Provost Maryanne Reed told the BOG it’s 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, 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,” Reed said.
Classrooms are still equipped with plexiglass barriers, masks are again mandatory in indoor areas and social distancing remains an important part of the mitigation strategy.
WVU will continue with its regular fall schedule including a two day fall break, Oct. 7-8, and a full week off at Thanksgiving.
“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.”