August 3, 2021

Sent on behalf of the Continuity of Operations Task Force

The following is an important update regarding campus operations:

Masking and Social Distancing: Effective Wednesday, Aug. 4, we are mandating masking for employees, students and visitors inside all EVMS buildings regardless of vaccination status in accordance with new CDC guidance. The only exception is when a fully vaccinated individual is working alone in a private area.

Social distancing will not be required in classrooms or meetings, but participants will be required to wear masks. If meals are served, social distancing will be required during the duration of the meal. Boxed lunches and individual bottles are still required. Elevators are still restricted to 2 people per elevator.

Vaccinations: All EVMS employees are required to be fully vaccinated by October 1, with exemptions for medical and religious reasons. All students are required to be fully vaccinated by August 1, with the same medical and religious exemptions.

Effective September 1, all new hires who are not fully vaccinated will be required to obtain at least the first vaccine dose by their start date and the second dose (if applicable) within sixty days of employment.

We recognize these changes are a step back, but they are consistent with the evolving CDC guidance. They are necessary steps for the return to in-person instruction and on-campus activities. The Task Force will continue to monitor CDC guidance and adhere to new directives as they are provided. Please see below for answers to frequently asked questions regarding masking and vaccination mandates. The most recent guidance documents from the Task Force, June 8 and July 22, may be found on the EVMS COVID-19 website. This notice provides a further update.

Current Campus Status:

  • About 75% of EVMS employees and students are vaccinated and that rate is slowly increasing.
  • We currently differentiate between fully vaccinated employees and students and those who are not fully vaccinated. Those who are not fully vaccinated are required to wear masks and maintain as much social distance as possible at all times, including when they are in classrooms.
  • We removed the social distancing requirement for fully vaccinated individuals, except for all skills training areas (the sim center and the anatomy lab, e.g.) and all clinical areas.
  • We continue to actively work on increasing the vaccination rate for both students and employees.
  • We continue to review and adapt our guidance based on CDC recommendations.

Latest CDC Update

  • Approximately 345 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to Americans.
  • Approximately 164 million Americans, about 50% of the population, are fully vaccinated.
  • The vaccines are proving to be safe and highly effective in preventing serious episodes of the COVID disease, hospitalizations and deaths.

The fact that the vaccines protect against serious and deadly episodes, however, does not mean that they confer absolute immunity against the virus or that fully vaccinated individuals cannot contract and spread the disease. That said, the “break-through” infections among the fully vaccinated tend to be milder cases and often are asymptomatic.

The Delta variant of the virus now accounts for almost all new COVID infections and is proving to be highly infectious, rapidly spreading across the population.

Almost all of the serious COVID cases today are from the Delta variant and predominantly among the unvaccinated segments of the population. As a result, the CDC has recommended a renewed effort to increase the number of fully vaccinated individuals and to reinstate masking in indoor settings for everyone, including both the fully vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The underlying science and CDC recommendations now require EVMS to reinstate masking for everyone indoors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is vaccination required if we have to wear masks anyway?

Combating COVID requires a multi-faceted approach as well as flexibility. The COVID virus is a “novel” virus. As a result, our knowledge of the virus and effective mitigation strategies are constantly changing. Vaccination protects primarily against serious illness and death. Wearing a mask provides additional protection against the transmissibility of the virus.

Will masking requirements be reduced or eliminated when herd immunity is obtained?

Possibly, although at this time there is no clear standard for when that level of immunity for the population will be achieved. What we know at the moment is that only 50% of the U.S. population and 75% of the EVMS employees and students are fully vaccinated. Those levels are well below where the likely herd immunity level determination will be made.

Will there continue to be changing requirements during the next several months?

Yes. The Task Force is continually reviewing new information from the CDC and from other sources in healthcare and higher education and balancing the need for safety with a desire for more normal operations. The changes are frustrating. At the same time, the changes represent our best judgment about the safest way to achieve our multiple goals in education, research and patient care.