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West Virginia University requiring masks in classes, labs

August 17, 2021 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia University said Tuesday that it is requiring masks to be worn in classrooms and labs for the next 30 days, citing several factors, including that not enough students and employees have submitted proof that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The university announced the change effective Wednesday, the first day of classes on the Morgantown campus, regardless of a person’s vaccination status.

While WVU does not require its students and employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19, the university had set a vaccine verification goal of 80% by Sept. 1. Students, faculty and staff on all campuses are required to either provide a vaccine verification or a negative COVID-19 test result by Friday.

But the rates are well short of that goal. So far just 68.4% of students and 67.5% of faculty and staff on the Morgantown campus have submitted their verification paperwork, with the rates being much lower on the Beckley and Keyser campuses, the school said. In addition, many had not completed a required COVID-19 education module by a Tuesday deadline.

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WVU also cited the anticipated recommendation of booster shots for long-lasting protection against the virus.

“We have always stated that our highest priority is to offer a fully in-person, on-campus academic and student experience this fall,” Maryanne Reed, WVU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, said in a statement. “Based on the data we have, the additional temporary measure of masking will provide an extra layer of protection for the academic settings.”

The university also is urging masks to be worn in all other indoor areas of campus in alignment with federal guidelines.

The university announced plans in June to fully open its campuses this fall, citing a drop in COVID-19 cases across the country.

But statewide, active positive cases of the coronavirus surpassed 7,000 on Tuesday, the highest since May 7, according to state health data. The number of people hospitalized for the virus, 369, is the most since early February.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.