Virginia Tech requiring booster shots, COVID tests, and masks for spring 2022

Virginia News

(Photo: Courtesy Virginia Tech)

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — With Virginia Tech students set to start their spring 2022 classes in a few weeks, the university announced three pandemic-related mandates that will be in place at the start of the semester: booster shots, virus tests, and masks.

Booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine:

According to a statement released on Tuesday, Dec. 28, Virginia Tech is requiring booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine for all students and employees within 14 days of eligibility

If you already eligible to receive the vaccine, school officials say you need to submit your updated vaccination records on the student dashboard or the employee dashboard by Feb. 1, 2022. If you are not eligible yet, you are urged to schedule your booster as soon as you are able to do so.

Procedures will reportedly remain in place for students and employees to request medical and religious exemptions.

COVID-19 testing protocols:

The second virus-related rule for the spring semester requires all residential students to provide a negative COVID-19 test result before moving back onto campus, according to Virginia Tech.

The university says a PCR or Antigen test will be accepted, but it must be administered no more than 72 hours before returning to campus.

Even though testing will be provided for students who cannot get tested before coming back to campus, school officials say anyone who tests positive on arrival will not be allowed to move into on-campus housing until you complete your isolation period.

In addition, all students and employees who traveled over the holiday break are asked to take a COVID-19 test before the spring semester starts. If your test result is positive, you are asked not to return to the campus or other Virginia Tech facilities until you complete the recommended isolation period.

You can find plenty of coronavirus testing locations around the Commonwealth using the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) website. Testing will also resume on the Blacksburg campus for students and employees on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.

Meanwhile, the university will continue to test unvaccinated students and employees on a weekly basis and conduct limited surveillance testing of vaccinated community members. However, those with updated vaccination records — including a booster — will be exempt.

Masks and face coverings

Based on the recent uptick in coronavirus infections, Virginia Tech says that members of the campus community will need to continue wearing masks in indoor public and instructional spaces, at least during the beginning of the spring semester.

Any additional details and updates to Virginia Tech’s coronavirus policies and protocols will be available on the VT Ready site and via email. At this time, the isolation and quarantine plan for residential students will be the same during the spring semester as it was in the fall semester.

You can read the full statement shared by Virginia Tech President Tim Sands on Tuesday below:

Dear Hokies,

We can all be proud of how our community responded to COVID-19 throughout the fall semester. We took important steps early on to give ourselves the best chance at a full, in-person experience, and we stuck with it. As a result, our active cases, positivity rate, and isolation numbers were consistently manageable from start to finish. We were able to enjoy many of the cherished hallmarks of the Hokie experience.

We must begin the new year with that same commitment as we will likely be fighting two COVID-19 variants along with seasonal influenza and other common respiratory infections. Our goal is to operate safely and in person to the greatest extent possible, while also protecting the capacity of the health care systems in our communities.

Building on our successful strategy in the fall, we are requiring our community to take three important steps as we turn to the spring semester:

First, get a COVID-19 booster as soon as you are eligible.

Our biggest challenge is likely to occur with the omicron variant in the first few weeks of the semester. Although evidence is still coming in, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot.

We are requiring booster shots within 14 days of eligibility for all students and employees. If you are eligible now, updated information is due by Feb. 1, and we urge you to get your booster as soon as possible. If you are not eligible yet, please schedule your booster as soon as you are able to do so. Students and employees need to upload their updated vaccination record as soon as they receive a booster dose. Procedures remain in place for students and employees to request medical and religious exemptions. Existing exemptions will be honored. For those with medical concerns about the booster shot, please consult your physician.

Second, take a COVID-19 test before returning to campus or your workplace.

All residential students will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result prior to moving back onto campus. A PCR or Antigen test will be accepted and must be administered no more than 72 hours before returning to campus. We urge you to obtain your test results prior to arriving on campus. Testing will be provided for those students who cannot obtain a test before arriving, however if you test positive on arrival, you will not be able to move into on-campus housing until you have completed your isolation period.

All students and employees who have traveled over the holiday break are asked to take a COVID-19 test prior to the start of the semester. If your result is positive, please do not return to campus or Virginia Tech facilities until you complete the recommended isolation period. Many pharmacies provide testing services. The VDH website also provides testing location information. Testing for students and employees will resume on the Blacksburg campus on Jan. 3.

We will continue to test unvaccinated students and employees weekly and conduct limited surveillance testing of vaccinated community members. Those with updated vaccination records including a booster will be exempt.

Third, continue to wear a mask and take steps to improve your mask strategy.

While we had hoped to relax mask requirements for indoor public spaces, the uptick in infections tells us our best approach is to continue wearing masks in indoor public and instructional spaces for at least the beginning of the spring semester. Beyond vaccines, masks are the most important tool we have for reducing the spread of COVID-19.

If you have been using loose-fitting cloth or surgical masks, now is the time to upgrade to a better fitting and more protective mask such as a KN95 or equivalent. The omicron variant appears to be more transmissible, and these masks protect you and others. If you have any risk factors or are not fully vaccinated, please consider wearing masks to protect yourself indoors even when not required.

We will provide any additional details and updates to our policies and protocols through the Ready site and email. Currently, the isolation and quarantine plan for residential students remains the same as the fall semester. Please work with your family to develop a plan should you become infected with COVID-19. As with any communicable disease, the Schiffert Health Center and the Dean of Students Office will work closely with students to implement their plans or pursue alternative solutions as needed.

We all wish that this pandemic was over and moved into the background of our everyday lives. But for now, we must continue to ask for the same extraordinary patience, understanding, and commitment you’ve displayed over the past 21 months. The actions we take today build on last semester’s successful strategy and give us the best opportunity to protect our community and maintain the Virginia Tech campus experience we all hope for this spring. Together we can get there.

Go Hokies!

Statement released on Dec. 28, 2021 by Tim Sands, president of Virginia Tech

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