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University of Virginia students who have not been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 vaccine will be barred from participating in in-person classes in the fall semester and cannot step foot on university grounds, school leaders announced Monday.
Students will have to provide proof of vaccination by July 1 if they want to take in-person classes or be on university grounds. Students can request a medical or religious exemption to the requirement. If granted, they will be required to take weekly COVID-19 tests and other health measures.
“This approach will enable our students to return to a residential academic setting where they can live, study, and gather together safely,” UVA President Jim Ryan and other university leaders said in an email message.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they have received all required doses of a vaccine.
In late April, Attorney General Mark Herring issued a formal opinion that universities have the authority to require COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of in-person enrollment. The decision was written to provide guidance to universities establishing their protocol for the upcoming semester; however, an attorney general opinion is not legally binding, so a student could make a legal challenge to the university’s requirement.
“We have seen how crucial vaccinations will be for keeping the COVID-19 pandemic under control and putting us on a path towards normalcy,” Herring said in reference to his opinion. “Virginia’s college and university students deserve the chance to go to classes in-person and take advantage of all that their schools have to offer, but over the past year we have seen numerous COVID outbreaks on school campuses, so we must make sure that they are doing so with the health and safety of their peers and communities in mind.”
UVA employees are not yet required to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment, but they are strongly encouraged to get the vaccination. In its statement, the university said it will monitor employee vaccination rates and consult health experts as they consider whether to enact such a mandate.
A person who has received his or her full vaccination will not be required to wear masks indoors or outdoors, per university rules. However, social distancing rules are still in place.
Other major universities in the commonwealth have not yet made vaccines a requirement, but have also not ruled out the possibility.
“At the current time, Virginia Tech does not require students or employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but we encourage everyone in the university community to do so,” Virginia Tech Associate Vice President for University Relations told The Center Square. “Having said that, we continue to consider and discuss that issue in relationship to the fall semester. When the university has new or updated guidance on this topic, we will share broadly as well as with you.”
James Madison University has also not established a requirement, but a spokesperson told The Center Square to monitor the university’s website on decisions related to a vaccine requirement.
Spokespersons for Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University and Old Dominion University did not respond to a request for comment.
New York policeman fatally shot, another wounded, fourth NYPD officer shot in four days
ANew York City police officer was fatally shot and another critically wounded Friday night while responding to a call at a Harlem apartment about a dispute between a woman and her adult son.
The incident marked the fourth NYPD officer shot in as many days and the most recent shooting in a spate of violent crimes in the city, a surge in lawlessness that new Mayor Eric Adams is trying to get under control.
In the incident Friday night, the two officers shot, along with a third officer, went to the apartment on 135th Street at about 6:30 p.m. in response to the call.
The officers spoke with the woman and another son, but there was no mention of a weapon. Two of them then walked from the front of the apartment down a narrow hallway, according to the Associated Press.
NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said the third officer stayed with the women who was fighting with another son, identified as 47-year-old LaShawn McNeil, who allegedly opened a bedroom door and shot at the officers.
The officer who was killed has been identified as Jason Rivera, 22, who joined the force in November 2020. The wounded officer is 27-year-old Wilbert Mora, who has been with the NYPD for four years.
The third officer on the call, who stayed with McNeil’s mother in the front of the apartment, shot at McNeil and wounded him in the head and arm, the wire service also reports.
McNeil was on probation for a 2003 drug conviction in New York City. He also had several out-of-state arrests, including one in 1998 in South Carolina for unlawfully carrying a pistol. Records show the matter was later dismissed. McNeil also was arrested in 2002 in Pennsylvania for assaulting a police officer, Essig told reporters.
The weapon McNeil allegedly used was a handgun with a high-capacity magazine stolen in Baltimore in 2017, the Associated Press also reports.
Virginia’s Youngkin, big school districts on collision course over mask mandates
One of the executive orders signed by new Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin removes the school masking requirement across the state. However, two Northern Va. counties – Arlington and Alexandria – have said they will be keeping the masking policies in place.
Youngkin’s order places the power to decide if a child goes to school masked in the hands of the student’s parent. “A child whose parent has elected that he or she is not subject to a mask mandate should not be required to wear a mask under any policy implemented by a teacher, school, school district, the Department of Education, or any other state authority,” reads the order.
Yet 12 hours after the governor’s order, the Arlington Public School system announced that it would not be complying with the order.
“Arlington Public Schools implemented our mask requirement this school year prior to Gov. Northam’s K-12 mask mandate, and we will continue to make decisions that prioritize the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff, following the guidance of local and national health professionals,” the system said in a statement.
Alexandria City schools soon followed suit, writing “ACPS will continue to abide by the health and safety guidelines of the CDC and the Alexandria Health Department and continue to require all individuals to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth in ACPS schools, facilities and buses.”
In response to a question about the actions of Arlington and Alexandria, Youngkin said, “We wrote the order specifically to give all the school systems, basically, eight days to get ready to listen to parents.”
He added that he would use “every resource within the governor’s authority to explore what we can and will do to ensure parents’ rights are protected.”
Arizona father threatens school principal with citizen’s arrest, zip tie over quarantine rules
Wielding zip ties, an Arizona father threatened the principal of his son’s elementary school with a citizen’s arrest upon learning his child would be required to quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
The school district confirmed that the father arrived Thursday morning at the Mesquite Elementary School with his son and two other men to protest the quarantine policy. The men told the principal, Diane Vargo, that they would conduct a citizen’s arrest if the child was not permitted to enter the school building.
Schools in the state are required to report virus cases to the county health department, which in turn assesses who needs to quarantine. John Carruth, the district superintendent, said Thursday was a “tough day.”
“One of the most powerful tools as adults is the behavior that we model to young people – and the behavior that was modeled today makes me really sad,” he said.
In August, Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey said that state would not provide federal COVID-19 relief funds to public school districts that required students to wear masks.
“Parents are in the driver’s seat, and it’s their right to make decisions that best fit the needs of their children,” he said at the time.
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