CDC Says Fully Vaccinated Campuses Can Go Back to Normal

CDC Says Fully Vaccinated Campuses Can Go Back to Normal
portrait of Anne Dennon
By Anne Dennon

Published on June 8, 2021

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On June 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines for colleges and universities, allowing all students, faculty, and staff who've completed a COVID-19 vaccination series (except those with medical or other exemptions) to fill their classrooms and stop wearing masks indoors.

In college settings with mixed populations of vaccinated and unvaccinated people, the CDC advises maintaining the old rules regarding tests and masks, or implementing additional rules. Colleges have been directed to adjust their guidelines in response to community transmission data, the campus vaccination rate, and the testing rate among unvaccinated people.

“[Institutions of higher education] where all students, faculty, and staff are fully vaccinated … can return to full capacity in-person learning, without requiring or recommending masking or physical distancing.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 4, 2021

The rule changes come shortly after COVID-19 vaccines received approval in the U.S. for ages 12 and up. COVID-19 mandates against gathering in groups have restricted campus life and in-person opportunities for well over a year. Now, fully vaccinated students can enjoy a liberated college experience and even vie for full-ride scholarships in states like Ohio and New York.

The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people be exempt from routine COVID-19 screening; they also no longer need to wear masks, physically distance, or test or quarantine to travel, local laws permitting.

Vaccinated people don't need to undergo testing or quarantine following a known exposure if they don't exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, they don't need to be restricted from work following an exposure.

CDC Advises Separate Housing for Vaccinated, Unvaccinated Students

Over 400 colleges require students to get a COVID-19 vaccine before arriving on campus this fall. On campuses with both vaccinated and unvaccinated students, staff, and faculty, the CDC's original guidelines — i.e., wearing masks, taking COVID-19 tests, and social distancing — still apply.

The CDC suggests designating certain complexes, dorms, or floors for fully vaccinated students, and others for unvaccinated students. In an effort to reduce mixing between cohorts, schools are advised to close or limit communal areas.

The CDC also asks colleges to consider restricting the use of shared spaces — like dining halls, exercise rooms, and lounges — to people who are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated individuals are advised to continue practicing social distancing.

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination Left Up to Colleges

The new CDC guidelines let colleges decide whether and how to verify the vaccination status of campus members. According to the agency, schools "can consider verifying the vaccination status of their students, faculty, and staff."

Alongside proof of COVID-19 vaccination, the CDC suggests that colleges consider maintaining documentation of students' COVID-19 tests and quarantines and conduct contact tracing.

Colleges must continue to adhere to state and local laws. So far, 15 states have advanced legislation barring "COVID-19 passports," including any version used by institutions of higher education.

Feature Image: Vladimir Vladimirov / E+ / Getty Images

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