Nearly three years after Emory University shut down due to the March 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, University President Gregory Fenves announced three COVID-19 policy changes — including removing the COVID-19 vaccine requirement —  effective Feb. 9, in an email to Emory community members. 

Students, faculty and staff will no longer be required to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, lifting the vaccine requirements that were implemented for students in April 2021. The vaccine mandate was later expanded to faculty, staff and post-doctoral fellows in July 2021 following a petition organized by Professor of History Clifton Crais. 

The University has required community members to receive the first booster vaccine since the start of the spring 2022 semester, although Emory never mandated the second booster vaccine. 

The changes were “based on the guidance of Emory’s medical and public health experts,” Fenves wrote in the Feb. 9 email.

Emory Healthcare will still uphold COVID-19 vaccine requirements for all employees already expected to receive immunization, as well as for health sciences students in the Emory School of Medicine and the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

University President Gregory Fenves announced the COVID-19 policy changes in a Feb. 9 email to the Emory community. (Gabriella Lewis/Managing Editor)

Fenves added that students, faculty and staff will no longer be required to report positive tests or submit isolation clearance forms before returning to campus.

Lastly, Emory is also lifting the COVID-19 vaccine requirements for minors and people participating in non-Emory programs who are staying overnight in on-campus housing.

Emory’s medical and public health experts continue to recommend getting vaccinated, staying home when sick and adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, Fenves wrote.

“The strong commitment by campus members to follow COVID-19 protocols over the past three years allows for transitioning away from mandates to strongly recommending everyone follow all CDC guidelines,” Chief Resilience Officer Amir St. Clair wrote in an email to the Wheel.

This announcement follows 61 positive COVID-19 cases reported among students, faculty and staff in the past 10 days, according to the University’s COVID-19 Dashboard. This is a 90.625% increase compared to the 32 cases reported a little over four months ago on Oct. 3. 

St. Clair explained that Emory Forward and the University’s COVID-19 Dashboard will be changed throughout this semester to reflect the decision. He said this will include condensing web pages and deleting outdated information, as well as redirecting users to “useful community resources.”

In total, 10,632 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Georgia in the past two weeks, according to a Feb. 8 report by the Georgia Department of Public Health. The CDC reported on Feb. 3 that DeKalb County has a “low” COVID-19 community level.

About 98.2% of students and 97.2% of faculty and staff have received their primary COVID-19 vaccination series, while 59.4% of DeKalb county citizens have done the same.

Higher education institutions have been shifting vaccine mandates “all over the board,” according to Inside Higher Ed. Some institutions, such as Harvard University (Mass.) and the University of California system, have maintained bivalent booster mandates, while others, including the University of Cincinnati (Ohio) and the University of Hawai’i system, dropped their vaccine requirements in April 2022 and March 2022, respectively. 

“We are grateful that through the incredible efforts of our campus members over the past three years, we can take these important steps forward and remain optimistic in not needing to reinstate mandates,” St. Clair wrote. “However, as the pandemic is ever-evolving, we need to stay attentive and continue following safe and healthy practices per CDC guidelines.”

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Editor-in-Chief | Matthew Chupack (he/him, 24C) is from Northbrook, Illinois, majoring in sociology & religion and minoring in community building & social change on a pre-law track. Outside of the Wheel, Chupack serves on the Emory College Honor Council, is vice president of Behind the Glass: Immigration Reflections, Treasurer of Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society and an RA in Dobbs Hall. In his free time, he enjoys trying new restaurants around Atlanta, catching up on pop culture news and listening to country music.

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Madi Olivier is from Highland Village, Texas, and is majoring in psychology and minoring in rhetoric, writing and information design. Outside of the Wheel, she is involved in psychology research and works for the Trevor Project. In her free time, you can find her trying not to fall while bouldering and watching Criminal Minds with her cat.