Central Virginia’s Colleges loosen restrictions for Fall 2021
By Madyson Fitzgerald
Every day, fewer and fewer cases of COVID-19 are being reported in the United States, and accordingly, colleges and universities are beginning to drop certain restrictions following the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As the summer progresses, fewer and fewer cases of the COVID-19 virus are being reported each day. In January, the CDC reported that over 300,000 cases had been discovered in a single day.
Only 12,322 cases were reported on Wednesday, June 16.
The slowing of the virus in the U.S. can be attributed to various explanations, but the COVID-19 vaccines have had the heaviest impact. Based on information from the CDC, a little over 43 percent of the population is fully vaccinated for a total of 144.9 million people.
As of late May, most restrictions that were in place at the beginning of the pandemic have been lifted for those who are fully vaccinated. The CDC announced that social distancing and mask-wearing — both inside and outside — would no longer be necessary for fully vaccinated people, and their lives could return to a post-COVID normal.
These guidelinces are making an appearance on college campuses in different ways. For instance, Virginia Commonwealth University will be open to full capacity, with particular academic resources and classes offered virtually. In their most recent update, many of the common spaces, like the VCU Libraries, the Hunton Student Center, and the Larrick Center, will be open with little to no restrictions.
VCU will be requiring vaccines for students who will be living on campus. Students must report their vaccination to the student health portal by July 15. Faculty and staff are not required but are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Additionally, social distancing requirements are no longer in place, and as the CDC has advised, masks are not required for vaccinated university members.
In a letter to the VCU community, President Michael Rao and other administration members wrote, “[COVID-19] vaccines are now widely available and have proven to be some of the safest, most reliable, and effective vaccines in history.”
“This requirement will allow our students to safely learn, live, gather and experience college at its best.”
Vaccines are also required at the University of Richmond, but with one condition: one of the vaccines must be fully approved by the FDA. In their most recent update, it said, “the University believes it is appropriate to wait for full FDA approval of at least one of the vaccines before requiring students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated.”
As of now, each of the COVID-19 vaccines is under emergency use authorization because of the rapid spread of the virus. Various experts have explained that the vaccines could be fully approved by the end of the year.
To the excitement of many students, many universities are expecting to bring back fall and Thanksgiving breaks. Virginia State University’s academic calendar resembles that of a normal year, with the fall semester beginning on August 23 and ending on December 17. Fall break will be in mid-October.
Many schools are trying their hardest to get students back on campus to make up for shortfalls in the previous year. Countless students were still subject to the full price of admission despite taking classes online or from home.
As students return from a tumultuous school year, colleges want to remind them of the promises they made during the height of the pandemic. Provost Jeffrey Legro, Executive Vice President David Hale, and Vice President for Student Development Steve Bisese at the University of Richmond made sure to mention this in their letter to the community.
“While we are fully committed to residential education in a mode of operations closely resembling the pre-COVID Richmond experience, we understand that public health conditions may change again in unexpected ways,” they wrote.
“Should conditions require further adaptations, we are prepared to implement changes to our health and safety protocols in order to support the continued academic progress of our students.”