Task Force forecasts a normal Fall

Students required to disclose vaccination status before returning to campus

By Alex Budzynski, Editor-in-Chief

Xavier’s COVID-19 Task Force announced last Thursday that the university is preparing for a typical Fall semester with in-person classes and campus activities. While vaccines will not be mandated at the beginning of the semester, the email announcement stated that all students are required to disclose their vaccination status to the university by the first day of classes, Aug. 16. 

Using Med+Proctor, students must upload one of two documents: a copy of their COVID-19 vaccination card or a disclosure form affirming that they have chosen not to be vaccinated. Unvaccinated students will be required to continue wearing their masks and maintaining social distance, as well as participating in surveillance testing and quarantining if exposed to the virus. 

COVID-19 Task Force member and VP of Marketing and Communications Doug Ruschmann explained that unvaccinated individuals will follow an honor system to abide by the national guidelines of mask wearing and social distancing. 

“We want students to know that their medical data is private,” Ruschmann said. “There’s not going to be a list of students, so to speak, and nobody’s going to be checking that list against what they see in places like the residence halls or the classrooms.” 

At this time, there are also no disciplinary actions that can be taken against students who break these guidelines. 

The Task Force considered recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and advice from TriHealth medical professionals when determining the outlook for this academic year. 

According to the CDC, the vaccine narrows the chance of contracting or spreading COVID-19, and it reduces mortality and hospitalization rates. Ever since students were eligible to receive the vaccine, Xavier has emphasized the importance of getting inoculated. 

“A core tenant of the COVID-19 Task Force and of Xavier administration is a general belief that we are better in person,” Ruschmann said. 

Ruschmann also explained that the Task Force is optimistic about the number of students who are getting vaccinated. During the summer, the university incentivized vaccinations by entering students in a raffle upon uploading their vaccination card. 

“We’re going to continue to encourage people to get vaccinated, (and) we’re going to make that as readily available as possible,” Ruschmann said. On campus, students can begin their vaccination process by contacting Student Health Services in the Health United Building. 

Vaccinated students will not be required to wear masks, social distance or participate in surveillance testing. If a vaccinated student comes into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, that student will only have to quarantine if they are symptomatic. 

The Task Force anticipates these guidelines will allow campus life to return to normal, with in-person classes, events and dining. 

Physical Plant staff has returned furniture to spaces across campus in order for classrooms, residence halls and the Hoff Dining Commons to operate at 100% capacity. Signs encouraging mask-wearing and social distancing have also been replaced with reminders for students to upload their vaccination status and wear a mask if they are unvaccinated.  

In mid-August, the Task Force will determine the percentage of students who are vaccinated based on the data provided by Med+Proctor. With this information they will further assess the state of COVID-19 on campus and create additional plans for the university. 

While Ruschmann could not say whether or not this data will be shared with the Xavier community, he did emphasize that the Task Force aims to maintain transparency. 

“The COVID Task Force has always tried to be as transparent as we possibly can with both of our students and our faculty and staff,” he said. 

As more colleges and universities release decisions surrounding COVID-19, Xavier is joining a number of other institutions which will likely mandate vaccines upon full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The email announcement, in part, read: “Full FDA approval of the vaccine or additional guidance from public health officials or our partners at TriHealth may cause the University to decide to require the vaccine, so community members are encouraged to get vaccinated now.”

“This group of folks on the Task Force…really, really care about Xavier students and their experience,” Ruschmann said. “They know that some folks feel very different about the vaccine, and (they) are trying to set up a system with structures and procedures to manage (COVID-19) as best as they possibly can.”

The Task Force will continue meeting weekly to monitor vaccine trends, the overarching status of the pandemic and how those factors may impact Xavier.