George Mason, Va. Tech end vaccine mandates for students

Two Virginia universities, George Mason and Virginia Tech, will end their vaccine requirements for in-person student attendance in response to a legal statement from commonwealth Attorney General Jason Miyares.

Mr. Miyares, one of three Republicans elected in November alongside Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears, is working to roll back vaccination and mask mandates that their Democratic Party predecessors imposed on schools. 

In an opinion issued Friday, Mr. Miyares said state universities and colleges “may not require vaccination against COVID-19 as a general condition of students’ enrollment or in-person attendance” since the General Assembly has passed no law requiring it.

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said in a letter posted online Monday that the university, which will also discontinue mandatory COVID-19 testing for students, acknowledged that the opinion superseded an earlier one from Mr. Miyares’ predecessor.

“Consequently, Virginia Tech will no longer require students to be vaccinated as a condition of enrollment or in-person instruction, effective immediately,” Mr. Sands wrote.

But the president said mask requirements will remain in place and federal regulations may still require students “who work in specific settings to be vaccinated, receive the booster when eligible, and upload their health information.”

George Mason President Gregory Washington shared the same decision in a letter Monday to his university community but said the university may also lift its mask mandate soon. While the school currently requires masks on campus, the president said this rule could end by March 4 if the campus infection rate remains below 4%.

“Given our high vaccination rate, the continued decline of the omicron variant, the Governor’s recent executive orders and directives, and the recent Attorney General’s opinion, we will now strongly encourage vaccination protocols for all Mason students, faculty, and staff, though we no longer require them,” Mr. Washington said.

George Mason said in a press release that nearly 93% of the campus is fully vaccinated, but the school does not know how many have received boosters.

Both universities said they will maintain COVID-19 health protocols in addition to encouraging vaccination.

The announcement comes as Mr. Youngkin, a former private equity executive elected as an outsider, seeks to fulfill campaign promises to voters frustrated with COVID-19 protocols at all levels of education.

On Jan. 12, he signed 11 executive orders hours after being sworn in as Virginia’s 74th governor. The orders included bans on mask mandates in K-12 public schools, vaccine requirements for state workers and teaching critical race theory in schools.

At least six state colleges previously dropped their vaccine mandates for employees after Mr. Youngkin signed the order rescinding them for state workers, according to multiple media reports.

“It’s a new day in Virginia, but the work is only beginning,” Mr. Youngkin said.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

Health, The New York Today

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