On Dec. 28, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands announced in a VTx article that the university will require COVID-19 booster shots for all students and employees prior to their return to Blacksburg for the spring semester. These shots are required within 14 days of eligibility for everyone, meaning that those who are currently eligible need to upload their vaccination records to the Online Health Portal by Feb. 1. Those who are not eligible yet will be required to receive their booster within those 14 days of becoming eligible.
This announcement comes as the omicron variant has been detected in most U.S. states and territories and is quickly increasing the percentage of COVID-19 cases it is causing, according to information, as of Dec. 20, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Sands praised the Virginia Tech community in the announcement, writing that because of the vigilant response to COVID-19 during the fall semester, the university was able to offer an in-person experience.
“As a result, our active cases, positivity rate, and isolation numbers were consistently manageable from start to finish,” Sands wrote. “We were able to enjoy many of the cherished hallmarks of the Hokie experience.”
The university will also be requiring a negative COVID-19 test for students who live on campus prior to their return to campus. PCR tests or Antigen tests will be accepted, and they must be taken no more than 72 hours before students return. If students are unable to take a test prior to their return, the university will provide tests starting Jan. 3. Those who have traveled over winter break are asked to take a COVID-19 test before the semester begins, and if the test is positive, to not return to campus or Virginia Tech facilities until they complete the recommended isolation period.
The CDC announced on Dec. 27 in a media release that they are shortening the recommended isolation time for those who are asymptomatic from 10 days to five, followed by five days of mask-wearing around others.
“The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after,” the CDC media release said.
Gayatri Bharambe, a junior majoring in mathematics and psychology, said that while she did expect for boosters to be made a requirement for students, the window of 14 days after eligibility may be too short for students to be able to get their shots.
“I think it’s a good initiative to make sure that every student is protected to the highest extent against COVID-19,” Bharambe said. “I definitely think it is a short time span for you to get vaccinated, because I know with everyone trying to get vaccinated it can take a long time to get an appointment, but it’s definitely a good initiative, what they’re doing.”
Sands concluded his announcement by encouraging students and employees to upgrade their mask options from the cloth or surgical variety to a more protective variety, such as the KN95 or equivalent.
“The actions we take today build on last semester’s successful strategy and give us the best opportunity to protect our community and maintain the Virginia Tech campus experience we all hope for this spring,” Sands said. “Together we can get there.”