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With COVID-19 transmission slowing in the spring and millions of Americans receiving vaccinations, a “normal” Fall 2021 semester seemed increasingly likely for returning students and faculty. However, with the recent increase in Delta variant cases in recent weeks, university leaders have been forced to reevaluate protocols and expectations. Some universities including Brown University, Boston University, and the University of Colorado at Boulder were already requiring vaccines for their campus communities as early as April, while others such as Sacramento City College and Rhodes College have instituted mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policies just in the last two weeks.

Trending COVID-19 Topics in Higher Education:

  • Updated Mask Mandates: In light of updated CDC guidance at the end of July, many colleges have opted to reinstate mask mandates or recommend masks be worn indoors.
    • University Business gathered a full list of colleges and universities that have imposed new COVID-19 mask mandates as of Aug. 6.
    • Universities in Florida, Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, Utah, Iowa, and Oklahoma have been legally prohibited from imposing mask mandates, but several including Arizona State University are now pushing back.
  • Vaccine Incentives: Colleges have been exploring ways to encourage students and faculty to be inoculated against COVID-19 before the beginning of fall courses.
    • Virginia State University revealed last week that it will begin requiring students to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and will pay each student who provides proof $500 if completed before Sept. 20. Employees who do so will receive a $1,000 incentive.
    • The University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences announced that students who get vaccinated will receive $20 in ‘Bama Cash’ that can be used at dining locations on- and off-campus.
    • West Virginia Wesleyan College officials said the school will charge students who do not submit a proof of vaccination by Sept. 7 a non-refundable $750 “COVID fee.”
  • Fake Vaccine Cards Emerge: With more than 600 colleges and universities now requiring proof of vaccination for students and faculty, concern around those looking to cheat the system has grown.
    • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill issued an announcement several days ago reminding students and faculty that those who are found to have falsified documents will be subject to disciplinary action. This announcement came after one professor alerted his followers on social media that some students knew how to buy fake COVID-19 vaccine cards and knew of others who submitted one to the university.
    • A spokesman for California State University noted his concern, conceding that “As with anything that potentially requires a certification, there is the possibility for an individual to falsify documentation.”