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Many Hampton Roads colleges updating COVID-19 vaccination requirements for fall

Colleges are taking a hard look at fall plans as the Delta variant spreads.

NORFOLK, Va. — Colleges in Hampton Roads are looking at their fall plans, taking into consideration the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, and updating their guidelines.

On Thursday, alone, the Virginia Department of Health reported 1,100 new infections in the state.

“I am really excited about being a senior and just continuing my journey,” said Old Dominion University senior Zoe McLaughlin.

The school is requiring students to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but only encouraging its staff members to do the same.

“I am vaccinated, so I don’t really care if people aren’t vaccinated,” McLaughlin said. “Just a personal choice, that’s how I see it.”

Like ODU, Christopher Newport University is requiring students to get vaccinated and encouraging staff members to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Hampton University, William & Mary, Virginia Wesleyan University, and Norfolk State University are going a step further. In addition to vaccinations being a requirement for students, they are required, not just encouraged, for staff members.

“This is a community effort. We are all in this together,” said NSU Vice President of Student Affairs Leonard Brown. 

“We have a very great experience planned for them in and out of the classroom,” Brown stated. “This is going to allow us to deliver that.”

Each college will allow medical or religious exemptions.

Some schools have strict deadlines. William & Mary, for example, is requiring vaccination proof by August 10.

In an email to students and staff Thursday, W&M said students who don’t get vaccinated or provide an exemption will be withdrawn. Staff members will be put on leave without pay.

So far, 77% of William & Mary's students, and 75% of its staff are vaccinated.

Students at Virginia Wesleyan University face a similarity penalty to those at William & Mary, but VWU leaders said most members of the school community are getting their shots.

“We had tremendous success with our faculty and staff...with only a handful of faculty exemptions,” said Dr. Keith Moore, Virginia Wesleyan's Vice President for Campus Life. “And, we are seeing that is similar to what we are finding with the student submissions.”

Tidewater Community College and Regent University are not requiring vaccinations.

Mask guidelines vary between schools:

Norfolk State University

  • Requiring masks inside for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status

Old Dominion University

  • Unvaccinated students/staff required to wear a mask inside

Christopher Newport University

  • Unvaccinated students/staff required to wear a mask inside

William & Mary

  • Unvaccinated students/staff required to wear a mask inside

Virginia Wesleyan University

  • Unvaccinated students/staff required to wear a mask inside

Regent University

  • Masks strongly encouraged for unvaccinated students/staff

Tidewater Community College

  • Masks strongly encouraged for unvaccinated students/staff