(WRIC) — Several Virginia colleges and universities — including Virginia Tech — are lifting their COVID-19 vaccine mandates for staff after Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order got rid of the mandate for state employees.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Virginia State University (VSU) are among the list of schools reversing their vaccine requirement just three weeks after mandating a booster shot for the spring semester.
VCU made the announcement on Tuesday, Jan. 18, saying the COVID vaccine mandate is now lifted and the vaccine is now only encouraged for faculty and staff.
Youngkin’s executive order rescinds the vaccine mandate for state workers, allowing them to opt out of regular testing and reporting their vaccination status.
Shawn Utsey, a psychology professor at VCU, say he disagrees with the university’s policy change.
“I think the policy stands the risk of placing students in harm’s way and faculty in harm’s way,” he said.
VCU and VSU now join Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia (UVA), William and Mary, University of Mary Washington, Longwood University, James Madison University, and Norfolk State University in complying with the governor’s order.
At the end of the fall semester, VCU reported over 97 percent of its faculty and staff were vaccinated. VSU reported 91 percent of its employees were vaccinated.
“It’s beyond the number of people vaccinated. It’s about a message that the students and faculty get that we have your back,” said Utsey.
VCU and VSU continue to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, booster shots, and testing.
Although the vaccine requirement is now lifted, the schools require mask wearing in all of their facilities on campus. The vaccine requirement for all students remain in place.
“The university has a responsibility to protect their faculty and students and to push back against unfair and unwise policies,” said Utsey.