As students prepare to enter into a new fall semester at UNC, COVID-19 still plays a big factor into what students can expect heading into the new school year, including continued vaccine and mask mandates.
Two weeks prior to the first day of school, UNC officials announced the reimplementation of another mask mandate for all students, staff and affiliates while inside campus buildings. The decision comes from a recent rise in coronavirus cases as well as the presence of the newer Delta variant within Weld County.
“The decision to reinstate an indoor mask policy was made with support from the Weld County Health Department and it was based upon the recent surge in cases due to the highly infectious Delta variant, not only around the U.S., but also in Weld County,” said Deanna Herbert, UNC’s Director of News and Public Relations. “The majority of Colorado, including Weld County, is currently experiencing high levels of community transmission, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control.”
Students are expected to comply with the mask policy, with the majority of responsibility falling upon faculty and staff to enforce it, in order to keep everyone safe. UNC officials will continue to revisit the mask policy based upon current transmission levels as well as Weld County and CDC guidelines and recommendations in the future.
Despite the mask mandate, some COVID-19 policies have changed. Students are no longer required to do mandatory COVID-19 testing. However, staff and students are still highly encouraged to get tested at the free COVID-19 testing site on campus on the east side of Bishop-Lehr Hall if they experience symptoms. Case numbers will also only be updated once a week on UNC’s COVID-19 Exposure and Health Alerts website.
UNC’s announcement came this past May that all students and staff were required to be vaccinated for the fall semester, with proper documentation supposed to be submitted by August 15. However, students and staff who have not submitted documentation have until September 3 to do so before penalties are put in place.
Currently 80% of students and 90% of staff and faculty are vaccinated, while the remaining percent are either unvaccinated or have not yet reported their status.
While there will be penalties for those who do not comply, UNC’s main focus is on providing support to students in order to fulfill the standards. UNC has begun the process of reaching out to students who have not yet submitted records.
“Our goal is to help our students comply, not penalize them if they have experienced barriers to completing the requirement,” Herbert said. “So, we will continue to reach out to those students who haven’t turned in documentation and assist them in any way we can.”
Students who have not yet been vaccinated and wish to be are able to receive the vaccine by scheduling an appointment at locations like King Soopers or Walgreens, which are both a short walk away from campus.
UNC also hosted a mobile vaccine clinic on August 20, 21 and 22. It will return on September 4 to administer second doses as well as assist those who want a first dose.
Ultimately, the mandates are in place to keep the UNC community safe while allowing for a successful return to in-person classes and events.