by RA’SHAWN COOK
More than 90 percent of UMW students and faculty are vaccinated, according to an email sent from University President Troy Paino on Aug. 23. This follows UMW’s vaccine requirement for all students and staff that was announced over the summer.
“While the global pandemic certainly is not over, vaccines have proven to be instrumental in curbing the spread of COVID-19,” said Anna Billingsley, associate vice president of University Relations, in an email on July 13. “Having a highly vaccinated population will allow us to return to a semblance of normalcy on campus. To that end, as you know, we are requiring that each student be vaccinated or submit a waiver (medical, religious, or opt-out).”
Students without proof of vaccination or a valid exemption by Aug. 20 were dropped from their classes. All students who are not fully vaccinated are required to participate in daily attestation and weekly COVID-19 prevalence testing.
Senior biology major Faith St. Clair believes that the UMW administration is doing what it can to keep students safe.
“I think [the mask requirement is] fine because the delta variant is twice as contagious as other variants,” she said. “I believe the school is smart for their decision. Protecting the UMW community is what they are trying to do and I believe their methods are going to be very effective. Especially with their masking rule.”
Regardless of vaccination status, UMW is requiring everyone to wear masks inside public places during the first few weeks of returning to campus. The only time students are exempt from wearing one is in their own residence hall room, private offices and when eating and drinking.
Riley Welch, a graduate student working on his master’s in special education, shared his thoughts about masking.
“I like wearing a mask in class because with the rise of the new variant, I feel that it is needed,” he said. “Even though most of the student population is vaccinated, I think it’s great that the university is doing everything they can to mitigate the risk involved with spreading disease.”
So far, there have been a total of 127 tests conducted and six positive COVID tests returned from the Student Health Center as of Sept. 1.
Freshman Drew Rowson shared his thoughts on the new rules.
“As part of the UMW class of 2025, I’d say the new rules that have been placed on the students here have been fairly effective,” he said.
Earlier this semester, he received a COVID policy violation for having guests in his room without a mask on.
“I do believe that the rules for specific situations regarding COVID should be explained more thoroughly and clearly,” he said. “I received a violation of the COVID policy very early on when I was not aware of the policy I was violating. I still believe that the policy in place will definitely help to minimize the impact that the delta variant and other variants will have on the university.”