Three years removed from the beginning of the pandemic, most institutions are prepared to welcome their students back onto campus with open arms, thanks to lax guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, as another fall and winter loom, so, too, does a wave of COVID variants. With infections again trending upward, some higher education institutions are not leaving any room for error.
Morris Brown College, an Atlanta-based HBCU, announced at the beginning of this week that it was reinstating mask mandates for the next two weeks following the recording of positive tests at the Atlanta University Center. Additionally, the university will require physical distancing, contact tracing and other measures to deescalate any potentially ensuing cases.
Although the data on these new variants, such as EG.5, suggests we aren’t in for as dangerous of a season as years prior, the CDC’s most recent data shows a 30% spike in the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations in Georgia, reports CBS News.
Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College, the other colleges to participate in the Atlanta University Center, have not reinstated any mandates as of now.
“This is what endemic means—it doesn’t go away,” said Dr. Jayne Morgan, executive director of Health and Community Education at Piedmont Healthcare. “We know now, with this heat wave, so many people have been driven indoors, when we’re usually outdoors. We’re also traveling a lot during the summer, so we’re carrying the virus from one group to the next.”
No to mask, yes to mandate
While Morris Brown College may be an outlier, far more colleges still require that students provide evidence they’ve been vaccinated if they want to attend on-campus classes.
No College Mandates, self-described as “a group of concerned parents, doctors, nurses, professors, students and other college stakeholders,” has found that 92 of the 2,679 four-year institutions it analyzed still require vaccinations. Similarly, of the 311 schools surveyed by the American College Health Association, 18% share this stance among its students and all subgroups.
Among them are all three Rutgers campuses. The New Jersey school announced its intention to disenroll students from their degree pending their vaccination status, which has drawn mass criticism one of its Republican state senators.
“For Rutgers, which should be the preeminent scientific institution, public institution in New Jersey, to be clinging to this now anti-science and punishing students—life-changing punishment, by the way—is outrageous. The administrators at Rutgers should be ashamed of themselves,” said Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, according to KTLA 5.
Other colleges that still have vaccines mandates in place include:
- Eight California State University campuses
- Pomona College (Calif.)
- Wellesley College (Mass.)
- Johns Hopkins University (Md.)
- Juilliard (N.Y.)
- University of Pittsburgh (Pa.)