Officials no longer require all GW community members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and will “wind down” campus COVID-19 testing operations over the next few weeks, according to an email sent to the GW community Tuesday.
Interim University President Mark Wrighton, Provost Christopher Bracey and Executive Vice President Sharon Reich Paulsen said in the email that the University now recommends but does not mandate COVID-19 vaccination for community members, and GW’s COVID-19 testing and contact tracing services will end May 25 and June 1, respectively. The change in requirement is a response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement last week that the federal government will no longer declare COVID-19 a public health emergency starting Thursday, the email states.
Officials changed the requirements after a “thorough assessment” of the current state of COVID-19, according to the email. The District had a weekly COVID-19 case rate of 9.7 per 100,000 the week of April 23 to 29 — the most recent time period documented — according to DC Health data. DC Health has not classified COVID-19 transmission levels as “high” in D.C. since late January 2022, the department’s data shows.
“We are grateful to the public health and medical experts who helped guide the University through the pandemic,” the email states. “The work of many positioned us well to maintain our public health preparedness.”
The email states officials “urge” GW community members to stay up to date with the CDC’s vaccination recommendations, which are currently the primary series of monovalent mRNA vaccines, like the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccines plus a booster dose, or a single dose of the bivalent mRNA vaccine, which contains both the original and omicron coronavirus strains.
Officials first required GW community members to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in August 2021 and 90 percent of the GW community was fully vaccinated with two monovalent doses later that month. The University mandated in December 2021 that students, faculty and staff must receive a booster doses by Feb. 1, 2022 and added last week that a single bivalent dose also fulfills the University’s vaccination requirement.
The email states that wearing a mask will remain optional on campus, except in some spaces like health care facilities, where mask requirements are at the discretion of each facility’s leadership. The University dropped the classroom mask mandate in February because of the University’s high vaccination rate and low rates of infection and hospitalization from COVID-19 in D.C. and ended their asymptomatic testing requirement in July 2022.
Community members should follow CDC recommendations for testing, isolation, masking, vaccination and symptom monitoring, “especially” if they test positive for COVID-19, the email states. Students should visit the Student Health Center for their medical needs while faculty and staff should consult their physicians, according to the email.
The email states that officials will monitor COVID-19, share information on the University’s COVID-19 website and make adjustments to requirements “as needed.”
This article appeared in the May 11, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.