KOKOMO, Ind. — In anticipation of an in-person fall 2021 semester, Indiana University has released health and safety guidance for the upcoming semester, including details on the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all students, faculty and staff, which is similar to IU’s seasonal influenza vaccine requirement. This decision — which was announced in late May and applies to all IU campuses, including IUPUI — will allow the university to lift most restrictions on masking and physical distancing.
Feedback from students, parents, faculty and staff, as well as conversations with legislative leaders, led to adjustments in the vaccine verification and exemption process. A form for requesting vaccination exemption, originally scheduled for June 15 release will be available on Wednesday for those applying for medical or religious reasons, or for a geographic exemption for those not present on or near campus. Exemptions details will be included in the form and IU’s Medical Response Team, among other designated IU leaders, will promptly review exemption requests, responding within five business days.
As part of the accelerated exemption process, those receiving the vaccine are no longer required to upload documentation. Instead, they can certify their status as part of a simple attestation form that will be available on Wednesday. Special incentives will be offered to those opting to upload documentation, as well. Details on the incentive program will be announced later this week.
“Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for IU students, faculty and staff with appropriate exemptions continues the university's comprehensive science and public health-driven approach to managing and mitigating the pandemic on our campuses,” IU President Michael A. McRobbie, said. “Throughout the pandemic our paramount concern has been ensuring the health and safety of the IU community. This requirement will make a 'return to normal' a reality for the fall semester.”
A return to more normal operations
All IU campuses plan to return to mostly normal operations with the fall 2021 semester. The fall health and safety guidance will be effective beginning Aug. 1 and was developed by the university's Restart Committee, which is led by IU School of Medicine Dean Dr. Jay Hess and includes medical, public health, legal and ethical experts.
As a result of the university's new vaccine requirement, students, faculty and staff will be able to dispense with masks, physical distancing in the classroom, studio and laboratory, as well as for recreation and extracurricular activity.
"I am immensely thankful for the cooperation of our students, faculty and staff through the last academic year with all of the necessary health and safety guidelines," said Dr. Aaron Carroll, distinguished professor of pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine and one of the leaders of IU's Medical Response Team. "As we approach the fall semester knowing that the vast majority of our IU community will be vaccinated, we are now able to remove many of the restrictions that had been in place and return to a more typical university experience."
Highlights from the fall guide include:
- Masks — Wearing a mask on campus will be optional for those students, faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated. Those who are exempt from the vaccine requirement or are in the process of becoming fully vaccinated— which occurs two weeks past the last dose of a COVID-19 vaccine— should continue to wear a mask on campus.
- Campus facilities— Classrooms, labs, housing, dining, recreation and other campus facilities will return to pre-pandemic capacities, with no physical distancing required. Classes will be held in person in typical classroom settings.
- On-campus childcare facilities will need to continue to follow Family and Social Services Administration and CDC business plan guidance because young children are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals working in these facilities will continue to wear a mask at all times and maintain physical distancing in classrooms even if fully vaccinated.
- Regular cleaning and disinfecting of public spaces and high-touch surfaces will continue, and hand sanitizer stations will continue to be available in high-traffic areas.
- COVID-19 testing— Students, faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated will not need to participate in mitigation testing. They will, however, be asked to participate in surveillance testing to monitor for outbreaks or other areas of concern. Such testing will be at much lower levels than the previous year's mitigation testing.
- Those exempt from the vaccine requirement or who are in the process of getting vaccinated will continue to participate in mitigation testing at levels consistent with those at risk last academic year. Students who are exempt or not yet fully vaccinated and living in on-campus, communal living will participate in arrival testing.
- All campuses will continue to offer symptomatic testing and voluntary asymptomatic COVID-19 testing.
- Quarantine and isolation— Fully vaccinated individuals will not need to quarantine if they are a close contact of someone with a positive COVID-19 test. Anyone with a positive COVID-19 test, regardless of vaccination status, will need to isolate for 10 days, or until symptoms improve and they are fever-free for 24 hours without medication, whichever is longer. In addition, all IU students, faculty and staff must continue to comply with the university's contact tracing efforts.
- Events— Proposals for large events, defined as 250 or more in attendance, will need to go through a review process. The report recommends large events be held outdoors when possible. For large indoor events with non-IU attendees, all attendees will be required to wear a mask during the event.
- Campus visitors— Official campus visitors, such as visiting scholars or invited speakers, who have been fully vaccinated can follow the same guidelines as fully vaccinated students, faculty and staff: masks optional, physical distancing not required. Other visitors to campus (parents, tours, event attendees, etc.) should wear a mask at all times when on campus.
The full Fall Restart Committee Report, which covers the time period from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, includes guidelines for all IU activities.
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