From President Tim Sands: COVID-19 vaccines required for all employees
To the Virginia Tech community,
With the start of the fall semester now just days away and our continued commitment to offer an in-person semester and full Hokie experience, I could not be prouder of the remarkable progress we have made. As of today, 94 percent of our students and 82 percent of our employees are fully vaccinated. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, and as we continue to analyze the emerging science and data from this ongoing global pandemic, we remain deeply committed to the health and safety of the Virginia Tech community and those around us, while preserving opportunities for in-person teaching, learning, research, and engagement.
In recent weeks, the delta variant of COVID-19 has become the dominant form of the disease and is about twice as infectious as the original virus. Many parts of the country are experiencing COVID-19 surges; cases and hospitalizations in the New River Health District are at levels not seen since April.
Given this landscape has changed in recent weeks, vaccinations will now be required for all university employees, with exemptions for medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs. As I noted in my June 8 message announcing the student vaccination requirement, we weathered significant surges in COVID-19 cases in Blacksburg last year through robust testing, self-quarantine, masking, and physical distancing. This year, data have shown that vaccination remains our best tool. In Virginia, 98 percent of cases, 97 percent of hospitalizations, and 98 percent of deaths are among those who have not been fully vaccinated. It is essential that every person in the Virginia Tech community who can be vaccinated, is vaccinated, ensuring that those who cannot be vaccinated are able to participate in campus life and in-person teaching, learning, research, and engagement.
COVID-19 has a proven ability to mutate and very likely will be with us in varying degrees for the foreseeable future. We will adapt and manage this challenge in a way that protects the health of our community and allows for the fullest Hokie experience.
Public health guidance has also evolved, leading to new vaccine requirements and other actions across the public and private sectors. At Virginia Tech, we recently announced a requirement for face coverings in public indoor spaces and a surveillance testing program. By expanding our vaccine requirement to all Virginia Tech employees, we can stay ahead of this virus and generate as much population immunity as possible.
With the issuance of Presidential Policy Memorandum 317, employees should visit the Ready site for more information about vaccination requirements, confirming vaccination status, and requesting an exemption. The deadline for employees to report that they have received the full course of vaccine doses (one or two, depending on the vaccine) or to seek an exemption is Oct. 1, 2021. Action will be taken for those who do not follow the requirements. If you have questions, please contact your human resources representative.
If you are among the 82 percent of the faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated and have already submitted your vaccination information, no further action is needed. Please continue to follow the guidelines posted on ready.vt.edu, and thank you for helping safeguard the health of our community.
As we said in the very early stages of this pandemic, decisions such as an employee vaccine requirement are not made lightly. Those decisions are based on the data, in consultation with our public health professionals. As with the student vaccine requirement, we know there will be thoughtful questions and concerns. We are committed to working with all our employees to take this important step in protecting their health, as well as that of our colleagues, students, and entire community.
I continue to greatly appreciate the selfless commitment that will help us manage through and emerge stronger from this pandemic. And thank you in advance for taking this additional step toward ensuring a fully in-person fall semester, with all the benefits of the shared experience we cherish at Virginia Tech. I am confident that this “next normal” will make us a better university and an even more resilient, connected, and service-minded community.