Fully vaccinated individuals are permitted to gather outdoors without masks, according to an update to the University’s COVID-19 safety guidelines. The new policy is in accordance with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines released Tuesday. The CDC considers individuals fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose of the vaccine.
The policy only applies to situations outdoors when individuals can maintain a six-foot distance from one another. Masks are still required in larger outdoor settings — those which would exceed the University’s 75-person outdoor gathering limit — such as athletic events and the upcoming Final Exercises ceremonies.
“We are so grateful for the many ways U.Va. community members are doing their part, most significantly by getting vaccinated as soon as possible and continuing to observe the University’s health and safety measures,” the update from Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis said. “Thank you for your ongoing dedication to keeping each other healthy and safe and to making this challenging year as rewarding as possible for all of us.”
Deputy University spokesperson Brian Coy said that University leaders notified the University Police Department and U.Va. Ambassadors prior to the announcement, but officers are not required to ask about vaccination status during interactions with community members.
"No U.Va. personnel will be expected to question individual community members about their vaccine status," Coy said. "However, we do expect that students will follow this policy, on their honor, as they would any other University policy. As Ambassadors identify violations of gathering limits or physical distancing policies, they will continue to intervene as they have all year."
The University currently has an indoor gathering limit of 25 individuals and an outdoor gathering limit of 75 individuals. Students are still expected to wear masks and practice social distancing. The new gathering limits were announced Monday after low COVID-19 case counts in recent weeks and continuing vaccination efforts.
U.Va. Health is also in the process of resuming the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after distribution was paused following reports of rare blood clots in six women. The CDC and Food and Drug Administration have since said the vaccine is safe for use after review. U.Va. Health continued to distribute the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines during the J&J pause.
Virginia and the Blue Ridge Health Department is currently in phase 2 of vaccine distribution, and all individuals 16 years of age and older are eligible to receive the vaccine. According to the update, U.Va. Health has sent appointments to schedule the first dose to all eligible students, faculty and staff. While U.Va. Health is unable to provide the exact numbers of students and faculty who received the vaccine through its Community Vaccination Center, Eric Swensen — public relations officer for U.Va Health — said the team estimates about 4,100 students and 1,000 faculty signed up to receive vaccinations as of April 19.
Students can now use VaccineFinder.org to schedule their second dose of the vaccine if they will not be able to return to the same location for their first dose. Previously, after many University students drove hours to Danville to receive their first dose, the BRHD said in a statement that students would also have to return to Danville for the second dose.
This resource will allow students who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — which require second doses after three and four weeks, respectively — through U.Va. Health’s Community Vaccination Center to receive their second dose at a separate location if they are required to move out before their second dose is administered.
University leaders, public health experts, and legal advisers are also evaluating whether to require community members living, working or learning in person to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Attorney General Mark Herring announced Monday that he believes colleges and universities have legal authority to mandate in-person attendance on vaccine status. The University is currently reviewing Herring’s opinion with public experts and legal advisers, but an announcement will be made soon about the University’s vaccine policy for the upcoming academic year.
More than 30 colleges have already said they will require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the fall semester, including Duke University, Georgetown University and the University of California system.
This article has been updated to include a response from deputy University spokesperson Brian Coy.