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West Virginia University updates COVID-19 guidance

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University publicly updated its mask-wearing and out-of-state travel COVID-19 policies for fully vaccinated individuals in a WVU Today article published Tuesday.

According to the story, WVU has decided to loosen some of its restrictions regarding masks and travel for those who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have verified their vaccinations with the institution.

Under new WVU guidelines, fully vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to wear a mask in outdoor settings on WVU campuses.

Fully vaccinated individuals in groups fewer than 10 indoors on WVU campuses may decide as a group to remove masks. However, each individual member of the group must feel comfortable with removing his or her mask — otherwise, everyone in the group should continue to wear their masks.

On June 1, WVU will loosen travel restrictions for individuals who have verified their fully vaccinated status with the university. Fully vaccinated individuals will no longer need to get tested for COVID-19 or quarantine for five days following out-of-state travel.

Furthermore, fully vaccinated individuals traveling internationally do not need to quarantine once they return, but should get tested for COVID-19 three to five days after returning and should also self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

Unvaccinated individuals must continue to follow existing WVU guidance regarding out-of-state travel procedures. The university strongly discourages unvaccinated individuals from partaking in international travel. If they choose to do so, they will be required to quarantine for seven days after travel and get tested for COVID-19 three to five days after return.

WVU Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop said the university’s decision to loosen the aforementioned restrictions was influenced mostly by recent guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, another determinant in the university’s alteration of its policies was data relating to the vaccine rollout and COVID-19 cases. Alsop said the university has seen that as vaccine numbers have increased during the past few months, the rates of infection have decreased, leading the university to believe that vaccinated individuals have a significant level of protection against COVID-19.

“That’s what these vaccines are supposed to do, is allow us to do more without social distancing or the use of PPE,” he said.

As of right now, the university has not made any definite decisions regarding indoor mask policies for the fall 2021 semester, which is still some months away. Its most recent policy updates are the university’s first step post-CDC guidance.

Over the next few days and weeks, the university will continue to review data pertaining to its loosened restrictions and vaccination rates so that sometime this summer the university can update its community and provide guidance for the upcoming academic year.

“One of the things we’ll definitely be looking at is what requirements we have for masks indoors. It’s a to-be-determined,” Alsop said.

He said that when it comes to how university staff and faculty can determine whether and unmasked individual on campus is fully vaccinated, the university has been approaching the topic from an aggregate position.

“To protect individuals’ privacy, rights and to make sure we don’t run afoul of HIPPA, we’ve been hesitant to let individuals know whether someone has been COVID positive or quarantined, or their vaccination status,” he said.

Alsop said that the university has instead focused on working toward reaching its vaccination goals within the student population, different levels of which open up various opportunities for student life.

WVU’s loosened restrictions provide chances for activities to once again take place at the university, which in turn makes it gradually more possible for WVU students to once again be in a face-to-face, engaging atmosphere.

WVU wants to continue to take steps in the right direction and regain a sense of normalcy at the institution.

“We do think there will be a big benefit, and we’re certainly hoping and planning that this fall is going to be a huge amount of activity that we just weren’t able to do prior to the vaccines last year,” Alsop said.

He added that COVID-19 vaccines are very safe and effective and that if an individual is worried about a level of mask-wearing or other precautions, the best thing to do is get vaccinated.

“That is the ultimate protection as we work through this,” he said. “We’ll continue to encourage individuals to get vaccinated over the course of the summer.”

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