President Elam shares more details about the College’s COVID-19 vaccination policy for the coming year for students, faculty and staff.
On April 28, I wrote to announce that Occidental will require that all incoming and returning students be vaccinated and show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before the beginning of the fall semester. I also indicated an employee policy was under evaluation. Today, after further consultation with the COVID Operations Group, I write to share more details about the College’s COVID-19 vaccination policy for the coming year for students, faculty and staff.
Public health experts agree that vaccinations are essential to get us beyond the pandemic and enable a return to “normal.” Safe and effective vaccines, which are now widely available, have proven to significantly reduce COVID-19 transmission and the risk of serious illness when the virus is contracted. Based on these results, Occidental has strongly encouraged all community members to be vaccinated. We are off to a good start. Although reporting vaccination status has been optional thus far, we know that at least 70% of active employees have been vaccinated to date. With our sights set on an in-person fall, we are taking an important next step to continue to support the health and safety of our community.
COVID-19 Vaccination Policy Updates
In brief, Occidental will require all students, staff and faculty to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and to submit proof of vaccination by August 2, 2021. Our vaccination requirement will allow for medical and religious exemptions. Those community members with approved exemptions will be subject to twice-weekly testing, as well as other preventative measures, to protect the health and well-being of the Oxy community.
We urge you to get vaccinated immediately for your safety and the safety of your fellow students and coworkers. From community forum feedback, we also understand that the topic of vaccines generates strong feelings among many in the community, and that there are many questions you will have. Above all, the College is committed to creating a safe and healthy environment for everyone who works, lives and learns on campus. We will continue to follow applicable federal, state and local public health guidance to do this, with vaccines being a key part of our overall approach.
The COVID Operations Group and I will continue to discuss these measures in the coming weeks. In anticipation of your questions, below are some key points as to how the new policy will work.
- Vaccine Exemptions: While the vaccines are in the current emergency use authorization status, our process will allow for exemption for personal reasons in addition to the medical and religious exemptions. Once one or more of the vaccines are FDA approved, which is expected this summer, we will only allow for exemptions for medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs, and community members who decline for personal reasons will need to resubmit their vaccination status. Emmons will send an update to the community this week with additional information and links on the exemption process.
- Mandatory Vaccine Status Reporting: So that we can get a more accurate snapshot of the vaccination status of the campus prior to fall, we are requiring students, staff and faculty to report on their COVID-19 vaccination status online by June 15, 2021. Emmons will send an email to campus by next week with specific information regarding how to report your vaccination status. Vaccine reporting is already mandatory for students.
- Policies Regarding Campus Access for Unvaccinated and Vaccinated Individuals: One of the most commonly asked questions we’ve received is regarding what permissions or restrictions will be in place for vaccinated and/or unvaccinated individuals. These are fair questions; the federal, state and local guidance is evolving on these questions on an almost daily basis. Exacerbating this uncertainty, we expect state and county regulations to change again around June 15, when Governor Newsom has indicated California will “fully reopen.” As a result, we're not currently in a position to issue clear guidelines to address these questions for fall. At this time, what we can say is this:
- Effective June 1, fully vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to do weekly surveillance testing, or be rapid tested when coming to campus for a one-time purpose - nor will they be required to do the Daily Health Check. This approach aligns with the latest public health guidance, as the current testing protocols were established before vaccines were developed. We will, of course, reserve the right to reinstate community surveillance testing as needed if conditions change or in accordance with public health guidance.
- Unvaccinated individuals with an approved exemption, as stated above, will be subject to twice-weekly testing, as well as other preventative measures (including but not limited to masking, daily health checks, social distancing, etc.) to protect the health and well-being of the Oxy community. Where an employee’s unvaccinated status poses a risk to that employee or others on campus, the College will work with that employee to determine whether reasonable accommodations may be made based on the employee’s approved exemption.
- As local, state and federal policies begin to offer different sets of rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, Oxy will consider how to implement these differing policies that allow for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals to safely work, live and learn together.
- Housing: Given the nature of congregate living, Los Angeles County public health officials have, to date, explicitly advised area colleges and universities to consider vaccination status with regard to housing assignments. Based on this guidance, the College will make a reasonable effort to house all eligible students in accordance with county guidelines. However, please note that a student’s inability or failure to be vaccinated may impact our ability to provide on-campus housing. (All students seeking on campus housing must update their vaccination status by June 15. Additional information will be sent to students this week from REHS regarding the housing process, and from Emmons regarding vaccine reporting.)
- Access to Vaccines: Emmons can provide free vaccinations to students, faculty and staff who have not yet been vaccinated. For international students who are unable to access vaccination prior to their arrival at Oxy, they will be expected to arrive on campus with sufficient time to become fully vaccinated before the start of orientation or classes. IPO will be following up with more information and details in the coming week.
Should you have any questions that are not answered on the College’s COVID website, we encourage you to forward questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, an in-house email inbox staffed by Oxy’s communications team to field comments and questions from the community.
I am grateful to each of you for doing your part to support the health and well being of the Oxy community, and appreciate your continued support as we look forward to seeing everyone on campus this fall.