BOONE — In preparation for the fall 2021 semester, Appalachian State University released new COVID-19 guidelines for students, faculty and staff on July 29.
The university is currently planning for in-person classes and on-campus work will be back to “pre-pandemic operations,” the university stated. Residence halls will be fully occupied, campus dining will be fully operational and events and activities will once again be held in person.
“We will continue to look at the data and look at the guidance that is available to us from federal, state, local public health and the University of North Carolina System in order to make decisions about safety policies, procedures and protocols,” said App State spokesperson Megan Hayes.
The university stated that fully vaccinated students and employees should submit their vaccination status as soon as possible to their MedPortal account. Students who live in residence halls are required to do so before moving into their dorm or to submit a negative COVID-19 test. The vaccination status will be kept confidential and will be used only to inform university-wide safety protocols, according to the university.
If a student is not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 at the time of move-in, they must provide documentation of negative COVID-19 test results, and they may be required to take additional COVID-19 tests prior to move-in. A student who is not fully vaccinated will also be subject to regular COVID-19 testing throughout the semester.
App State Chancellor Sheri Everts stated in a July 30 email that nearly 30 percent of faculty and staff have attested their vaccination status.
“After 18 months of actively responding to COVID-19, we are acutely aware that guidance necessarily must change as circumstances change and new information is available,” Everts said in the email. “We review all information, guidance and directives carefully to determine how they apply to App State. We will continue to make data-driven decisions based on the latest public health recommendations.”
App State also stated it will continue with its wastewater testing in residence halls to help with early detection of COVID-19.
The university stated it strongly encourages students, faculty and staff to get a vaccine, but can not unilaterally mandate vaccines for students or employees.
“We continue to urge all Mountaineers to get vaccinated to help protect our community, especially children under 12 and immunocompromised individuals who are unable to take the vaccine,” Everts wrote in a July 16 campus-wide email. “This week, (East Carolina University) Chancellor Rogers accepted my challenge to see which university can vaccinate the most students before the highly anticipated football game between our two schools on Sept. 2. Let’s show them how to do it, Mountaineers.”
During the semester, fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear a face covering on App State’s campus, except at Student Health Service or other health care settings, at on-campus child care facilities, or at on-campus summer camps serving minors.
Individuals who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 must continue to wear face coverings in all indoor public settings, according to the university. Unvaccinated individuals are not required to wear a face covering when they are working alone in an enclosed indoor space, such as offices or study rooms, as long as they remain alone.
Unvaccinated individuals are not required to wear a face covering in private living spaces within residential halls, but they are required to do so in common areas such as lobbies. Those who are unvaccinated may also temporarily remove their face covering while drinking or eating at a dining room table in a university dining facility or other area designated for dining.
Face covering requirements will remain in place for individuals who choose not to disclose their status as being fully vaccinated, the university stated. Faculty can not ask students or other employees if they are vaccinated, however, students and employees may choose to disclose vaccination status voluntarily.
Watauga County was listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “moderate” for COVID-19 transmission as of Aug. 2. The CDC currently recommends vaccinated individuals wear face coverings in areas with “substantial” or “high” rates of transmission.
As needed, University of North Carolina System President Peter Hans stated in a memo to all UNC System chancellors that chancellors retain the authority to impose public health requirements on their campuses that are more restrictive than those of an Executive Order should chancellors choose to do so depending on the unique circumstances and community conditions of the campus.
Whether to do so or not is within the discretion of the chancellor.
App State classrooms have been returned to the standard configuration for the upcoming semester and each classroom will continue to be supplied with surface wipes and hand sanitizer for use by students and faculty. Classrooms will continue to be cleaned daily.
Disposable face coverings will be made available to departments for distribution as needed.
Facilities Operations has removed/replaced signage related to COVID-19 across campus, the university stated. No additional COVID-19 signage may be posted, nor may any COVID-19 signage be removed without prior approval from the university Department of Environmental Health, Safety, and Emergency Management.
The full guidelines for the fall 2021 semester can be found at www.appstate.edu/recovery/.
The university stated more information about returning to pre-pandemic operations for the fall 2021 semester, campus events, incentives for getting vaccinated and for volunteering vaccination status will be released in the coming weeks.