Wayne State University Is Requiring All Students, Faculty and Staff to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

The Detroit university, citing the latest data on the delta variant and rising cases, joins a growing number of colleges to issue a mandate.

Wayne State University is the latest Michigan university to mandate vaccines, announcing on Tuesday that all students, faculty and staff who will be on campus for the fall semester must prove they’re vaccinated by Aug. 30 or be approved for waiver based on health or religious reasons. The university is also requiring everyone to wear a mask indoors until at least mid-September.

Laurie Lauzon Clabo, Wayne State’s Chief Health and Wellness Officer, says the decision was made after university officials watched the COVID-19 positivity rate in Detroit increase from 2.5% to 3.3%.

“[The positivity rate] is trending in the wrong direction. And we all know that the evidence suggests that the best way for us to protect the health of students, faculty and staff on our campus is to have universal vaccine.” –Laurie Lauzon Clabo, Wayne State University

“And while that is not a terribly disturbing number, it is trending in the wrong direction. And we all know that the evidence suggests that the best way for us to protect the health of students, faculty and staff on our campus is to have universal vaccine,” she says.  

The CDC says the delta variant is more contagious than the common cold and smallpox and just as contagious as the chickenpox.

Individuals with an approved waiver for health or religious reasons will be allowed on campus if they get tested for COVID-19 once a week. Clabo says there are a few reasons why people may be exempt. 

“Individuals who have had a prior serious allergic reaction to either a first dose of one of the vaccines, or to a component of one of the vaccines. There are some instances where early pregnancy may be considered a time-limited reason not to receive the vaccine,” she says. 

Clabo says waivers may also be permitted for people who explain why they can’t be vaccinated for religious reasons. 

Wayne State students, faculty and staff have until Aug. 30 to submit proof of vaccination. Clabo says if someone lost the card, they can get a replacement card by contacting their primary care doctor. “Everyone in the state of Michigan who’s received a vaccine is recorded in a state system,” she says.

People who violate the vaccine mandate and come to campus unvaccinated will face consequences, according to an email sent Tuesday to the campus community. The mandate does not apply to those who are working and learning from home.

“The Wayne State Student Code of Conduct requires that students comply with COVID-related policies,” Clabo says. “The code was changed last year to include that. And those students will be reported to the Dean of Students Office and that office will deal with progressive discipline.”

Clabo says the university is addressing what the consequences will be for faculty and staff.

“We want to give people every opportunity through the fall semester to get vaccinated or to choose that they will work at home if they are unable to be vaccinated. And those policies will likely vary by classification of faculty, staff and students and various roles and probably a one-size fits all answer doesn’t apply.”

Listen: Laurie Lauzon Clabo explains Wayne State’s vaccine mandate.

Beginning Aug. 3 through Sept. 15, masks will be required indoors for everyone regardless of vaccination status. At that point, the university will revisit the policy, President M. Roy Wilson said in the email sent Tuesday.

“Full vaccination of our campus community will eventually eliminate the need for masks and allow a renewed sense of normalcy in our interactions,” he said. On Tuesday, when asked if convening large crowds this semester as football season gears up is cause for concern, Wilson said, “there’s always that concern.” He added: “In fact, I think that one of the reasons why we are in the situation that we’re in as a nation, throughout the country, with this surge, is because we relaxed too soon.”

In April, Wilson said in order to reopen safely, a large majority of the campus must be vaccinated and a mandate for fall might be a possibility.

More Organizations Are Mandating Vaccines

Hundreds of colleges nationwide have told students in recent months they must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before classes begin, including the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Universities aren’t the only organizations to require vaccines — health systems like Henry Ford and Beaumont have also announced mandates for their employees.

Dr. Paul Kilgore, an associate professor and director of research at Wayne State University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, says there are two things people can do to be protected from the delta variant: Get vaccinated and start wearing a mask again, especially indoors or in large gatherings. 

As of recently, the delta variant wasn’t as prevalent in Michigan compared to other states. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention COVID-19 tracker Friday, Michigan was among four states and four U.S. territories that had the lowest seven-day case rates per 100,000 people, with a positivity rate of 3%. However, cases are on the rise: Michigan has seen a more than 180% increase in cases over two weeks. Nearly half of Michigan residents live in counties — including Oakland and Macomb — where the federal government is urging everyone ages 2 and over, including the fully vaccinated, to wear masks in public indoor settings because transmission of the coronavirus is “high” or “substantial.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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