May 29, 2023

A COVID Update from President Paino

The following message is from the Office of the President.

To the UMW Community:

The University has reviewed the advisory opinion regarding mandatory vaccinations for higher education students issued by the Attorney General on January 26, 2022, and we have consulted with our partners here and across the state. The advisory opinion states, “absent specific authority conferred by the General Assembly, public institutions of higher education in Virginia may not require vaccination against COVID-19 as a general condition of students’ enrollment or in-person attendance.” This opinion supersedes an April 26, 2021, Attorney General’s opinion that permitted public institutions of higher education to condition in-person attendance on receipt of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Proof of vaccination against COVID-19 is no longer a condition of students’ enrollment or in-person attendance, nor will unvaccinated or eligible unboosted students be subject to separate testing requirements. Irrespective of our authority to require vaccination, the fact remains that vaccines and boosters continue to be the most effective way to protect individuals from serious illness or hospitalization (as the Governor’s COVID Action Plan indicates). UMW continues to strongly encourage students and employees to get vaccinated/boosted as soon as they are eligible, and we strongly encourage them to upload their information when they do so at the designated survey locations (Students and Employees). If UMW does not have record of your status, we will assume you are unboosted for purposes of quarantine and isolation protocols. For example, if you are boosted and had an exposure to COVID-19, you do not have to quarantine. Awareness of your status also allows the UMW public health team to provide the best and proper ongoing advice for our Quarantine and Isolation practices.

We are grateful that the vast majority of our students and employees are vaccinated (95%) and over two-thirds are boosted already. With this high vaccination rate and other mitigation protocols still in place, the UMW campus remains a safe place to live, learn, and work.

Case numbers on our campuses continue to be very encouraging, and the Rappahannock Area Health District community numbers are starting to decline as well. Tools like masking and high rates of vaccination/booster reduce the spread and severity of the virus.

Masks are still required for all members of the campus community inside buildings, regardless of vaccine status, and we especially recommend KN95 masks (available on campus at the UC or by work order request to employee departments), double masking, or equivalent masks. Public facing events such as athletics, theatre, music, and other performances will continue to check for recent negative tests or vaccination status. As the Omicron surge declines, we will revisit these assorted layers of risk mitigation, but for now, they are important components of our successful COVID strategy.

COVID testing will be available at Bushnell Hall for members of the UMW community who believe they might have been exposed. It will be available on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Information on hours and accessing those tests will be sent out later this week. We encourage those who are most vulnerable to the virus to take advantage of the regularly available testing.

Although we are not there yet, we are optimistic about the chance to continue to reopen campus life. Key to that shift will be to continue what our community has done since the start of this pandemic, namely taking care of oneself and considering others. We can make sure that we ourselves are as protected as possible from serious illness and hospitalization by getting vaccines and boosters when eligible, wearing high-quality masks to protect ourselves and those around us, and being thoughtful about high-risk gatherings. We should also be heartened by the increasing evidence that getting vaccinated and boosted means that even if you catch Omicron, it is highly likely that symptoms will be mild.

I want to thank everyone, once again, for all you have done to get us through the pandemic. We know this has been hard. We have made great strides toward a full return to campus thanks to your commitment to our community. I am grateful for all you do to make Mary Washington such a special place.

Troy D. Paino, JD, Ph.D.