IU Officials Say Fall COVID-19 Protocols Will Help Students Stay In Class | New

NEW ALBANY – Indiana University officials say COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming school year will help keep students in class.

IU will begin the school year with the required indoor masks and required vaccinations for each of its campuses, including Southeast Indiana University in New Albany. The first day of classes for the IUS is August 23.

The university requires that all students, faculty, and staff be vaccinated or have an approved exemption. However, the university does not require proof of vaccination at this time.

Just its week ago, IU changed its mask policy to require all students, staff, faculty and visitors to wear masks in indoor spaces and made the policy effective from Thursday.

The policy change followed updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising people to mask themselves indoors regardless of their vaccination status due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

A group of IU students represented by law firm Bopp are seeking to block the university’s vaccine needs, and on Friday the firm appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The university’s vaccine requirement has been upheld by a federal appeals court and a US district court.

Attorney James Bopp, Jr. said in a press release Friday that the firm expects a Supreme Court opinion next week.

Dr. Aaron Carroll, the university’s health director, noted the CDC’s guidance and nationwide concern over the highly transmissible Delta variant.

He said the university approaches 85% of students on Indiana University campuses who say they are fully vaccinated or have received a dose. He notes that this is “not a perfect measure”.

The risk of transmission is expected to be low with high levels of immunization, Carroll said. He pointed out that some of the counties with IU campuses are pursuing mask mandates.

“We decided to make the switch to follow basic CDC guidelines and listen to what everyone is saying and start the semester with everyone masking in indoor public spaces,” Carroll said. “But then we’ll look and see what happens and what the risk of transmission really looks like, and we can make a different decision later.”

Carroll said the university is still planning full classes and dining halls and masking is not required outdoors.

He said there had been a push for exemptions in the week following the announcement of the vaccination policy, but since then they “have come down to a minimum, as most people at this point have said so “.

“We haven’t seen a big increase in exemptions since, I’d say July,” Carroll said.

Amanda Stonecipher, vice-chancellor for enrollment management and student affairs at IUS, said the university has contacted students, faculty and staff about the vaccination requirement in various ways to remind them communicate their vaccination status via a confidential online form.

“We obviously hope that everyone will comply with either a vaccination or an approved exemption by mid-August, but we understand that this is not possible for all students as they could start now in the process. vaccination, ”she said.

Stonecipher said the university is also calling students who have not submitted their vaccination status.

This process will be managed at the university level, not on the IUS campus, she said.

“On our campus, we won’t know who has a vaccine and who has an exemption,” she said. “And we can’t ask. We don’t ask people for their immunization status… so we don’t know. All we tell students is make sure you comply with requests and let us know your status. “

Those who receive a vaccine exemption will need to pass regular COVID-19 mitigation tests.

Carroll said he hopes the university’s vaccination rate will be as high as possible.

“Vaccination works, but we’re still worried about those who aren’t vaccinated,” Carroll said. “They are at great risk, we are always worried about epidemics that may arise. We need to do everything we can to keep everyone safe, but we care about all of our constituents, not just one group or another, so we will continue to push for higher and higher rates. . “

Stonecipher said that at this point, the IUS did not have a full picture of enrollment for fall, so it couldn’t say whether the vaccination requirement had an impact on enrollment for the semester.

“They sign up until the start of class, and we really can’t say why a student chooses not to sign up unless they give us the reason directly, so given the current situation with the pandemic that we see everywhere, there are a myriad of reasons why someone can choose to enroll or not to enroll, ”she said.

Stonecipher said she did not know what the reported vaccination rate was for the IUS campus. She said that “most people appreciate the seriousness with which we take the safety of their students.”

“We want to be back on campus and have activities and people in our classrooms and our students want that,” she said. “So we’ve found that students are more often enthusiastic and willing to comply, because they want to be too. “

IUS offers programs entirely online, as well as online courses offered as part of degree programs.

“What we’ve learned is that students choose a mix of modalities,” Stonecipher said. “They can choose two face-to-face courses, then two hybrid courses and one online course.”

Stonecipher said she sees a positive atmosphere on campus as staff and faculty return and groups of students take tours and register for classes and there is more activity on the campus. campus.

She said the university is in a good position to stay open and university leaders are “ready and ready to respond to any new direction we receive to make sure we keep our classes open and in person.”

“Over the past year, we’ve learned a lot about how to really make decisions and approach any kind of change that’s coming,” she said.

Carroll said the pandemic for the vaccinated is very different from the pandemic for the unvaccinated, and the danger with the spread of the Delta variant is “overwhelmingly directed at the unvaccinated.”

“Even when people who have been vaccinated get flare-ups, it’s almost always very mild,” he said. “And if we can make sure that the risk when you’ve vaccinated yourself against COVID, even if you’re infected, is quite mild – less than the other seasonal viruses that are circulating – then we can pretty much feel good and go back to normal life.

Getting the vaccine is the “best way to get out of this completely,” Carroll said.

“Even though we drive the numbers to where they need to be on campus, they’re not where they need to be in Indiana or the United States.”

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