Effective Wednesday, Aug. 4, EVMS will mandate masking for employees, students and visitors inside all school 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.
The announcement is in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which now recommends that vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas of the country with “substantial or high” transmission of the coronavirus, including parts of Hampton Roads.
The CDC announcement was a reversal from the group's guidance in May, but it’s a decision one EVMS infectious disease expert calls “very appropriate.”
"I'm going to start wearing a mask again if I'm indoors with people and I don't know their vaccination status or anywhere where there are significant people indoors,” says Edward Oldfield III, MD, Professor of Internal Medicine, who recently talked with a WTKR reporter about risks in the region, including those posed by the fast-spreading delta variant.
"It's pretty clear now that people who are vaccinated not only can get infected, but when they get infected can have an amount of virus that's high enough and they can infect other people," says Dr. Oldfield says, who has encouraged community members to become vaccinated and in shared reliable information about the virus and vaccines throughout the pandemic. "That's really what led to the change [in guidance]."
EVMS' Continuity of Operations Task Force released its updated guidelines on Tuesday, Aug. 3.
Among the key points:
- 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 two people per elevator.
- In addition, all EVMS employees are required to be fully vaccinated by Friday, Oct. 1, with exemptions for medical and religious reasons. All students are required to have been fully vaccinated by Sunday, Aug. 1, with the same medical and religious exemptions.
- Effective Wednesday, Sept. 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 60 days of employment.
"We recognize these changes are a step back, but they are consistent with the evolving CDC guidance," says Donald Combs, PhD, Vice President and Dean of the School of Health Professions and Chair of the COO Task Force. "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."
Find out more about EVMS' COVID-19 policies.