RADFORD, Va. (WFXR) — With spring 2022 classes set to start in less than two weeks, Radford University informed students and staff about pandemic protocol updates, including a booster vaccine mandate.

You can read the full message released to the Radford University community on Thursday, Jan. 6 below:

Dear Highlander Family:

As we usher in a new year, I hope each of you enjoyed a safe and healthy break and I look forward to being together again during the Spring 2022 semester!

As you and other members of our community return to campus, the health and well-being of the Radford University family remains our central focus. In doing so, some initiatives are necessary for us as a University; however, much of our progress rests in the hands of each individual as we continue to navigate the global health pandemic. Since releasing the Spring 2022 Operational Plan in October, there have been a number of developments, such as Omicron, the latest variant that is the predominant strain of the virus, and the CDC updated guidance for isolation and quarantine.

As you may be aware, college campuses around the country, as well as here in Virginia, are having to reexamine best practices for remaining healthy while continuing the important mission of teaching and learning.

In preparation for the Spring 2022 semester, the Radford University’s COVID-19 Working Group is providing revised recommendations related to health and safety protocols for our community. The information outlined below updates and supplements the Spring 2022 Operational Plan.

Spring 2022 Operational Plan Updates

The spring semester will start as planned with the first day of classes on January 18, 2022. University owned and operated housing reopens on January 13, 2022 for students to return during their chosen appointment time. To balance density, appointments can still be scheduled through the housing portal in OneCampus. 

Students who are sick or experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms should stay home until symptoms resolve, a negative COVID-19 test result is received and/or are cleared by a healthcare provider. The Dean of Students Office will assist students with late arrival needs.

Vaccine/Booster

Vaccination remains the most effective tool to combat COVID-19. The CDC recommends COVID-19 booster shots at two to six months after the initial vaccine series completion, depending upon type of vaccine received (five months after Pfizer, six months after Moderna and two months after J&J). Effective immediately, Radford University is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate to include the requirement of booster shots for students within fourteen (14) days of eligibility. Fully vaccinated students currently at or beyond the booster eligibility window must provide documentation of receiving the booster by no later than February 15, 2022. Students not yet eligible to receive a booster must do so and provide documentation within fourteen (14) days of eligibility. Documentation of the COVID-19 booster can be uploaded through the secure Medicat portal. Students enrolled in a fully online program with no in-person engagement or physical presence on campus remain exempt from the vaccine and booster requirement, as do students previously receiving a medical or religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine. Eligible students that do not provide documentation of being boosted by the February 15, 2022 deadline or within fourteen (14) days of booster eligibility may be required to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing and may not be eligible to register for future semesters.  

Faculty and staff are also required to disclose their booster status within fourteen (14) days of eligibility. Fully vaccinated faculty and staff at or beyond the booster eligibility window must disclose their status, using the Employee COVID Booster Submission Form no later than February 15, 2022. Employees not yet eligible to receive a booster must do so and provide documentation within fourteen (14) days of eligibility. Eligible employees that do not provide documentation of being boosted by the February 15, 2022 deadline or within fourteen (14) days of booster eligibility may be required to participate in COVID-19 testing.

Boosters will be available, at no cost, to interested students, faculty, staff or contractors during entry testing on main campus, January 13-16, 2022 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.  Boosters will be available, at no cost, to interested students, faculty, staff or contractors at RUC on January 21, 2022. Time and location will be provided.  Additional booster clinics will be scheduled at both locations.

Isolation and Quarantine

The University currently uses a ten (10) day period of isolation and quarantine and will continue to do so. The updated CDC guidance related to isolation and quarantine provides options to shorten either period. The updated guidance also expands quarantine to include vaccinated individuals who have a known exposure and are eligible for the booster but have not yet received it. When circumstances are appropriate, the University may apply these shortened timeframes for isolation and quarantine followed by a period of strict wearing of a well-fitted face mask.  

Masking

The Omicron variant is highly transmissible, more so than the virus and previous variants. The existing indoor masking requirement, regardless of vaccination status, will remain in effect. Students living in residence halls will be required to wear a well-fitted face mask when in hallways, lounges, kitchens or other common spaces other than the assigned room.

The University’s Spring 2022 Operational Plan discusses health and safety protocols that have not been updated or modified. The University will continue to monitor this endemic phase of COVID-19, evaluate and adjust when or as appropriate.

Let’s continue our unwavering commitment to the health and safety of each other in addition to ourselves. This is so important as it supports who we are as Highlanders and the progress we will make together. 

Carolyn Ringer Lepre, Ph.D., Interim President of Radford University