Are masks and quarantining things of the past?

New guidance from the CDC leads to some exemptions from public health measures for fully vaccinated VCU students and employees.
a student working on a laptop while wearing a v c u mask

Editor's note: VCU's Public Health Response Team consistently reviews the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Virginia Department of Health and VCU Health's medical and science experts to make informed recommendations regarding the university's public health measures, prioritizing the health and safety of the VCU community. Timely updates are communicated by email to the university community and posted to the One VCU: Better Together website.

More and more, being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 serves as your ticket to being exempt from certain required public health measures — most recently face masks. But why did the rules change now? And how do these rules apply to Virginia Commonwealth University? We turned to VCU Health infectious disease expert Michael Stevens, M.D., for guidance.

“The change is based on a building body of evidence showing the real-world effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines at preventing infection and transmission,” Stevens said in an interview with VCU Health News. “The key is to follow the CDC guidance closely. This means that masks are still required in a number of settings, including hospitals, doctors’ offices, on buses, etc. It’s also critical that people who are immunocompromised not relax using masks.”

But being exempt from the public health measures doesn’t mean you have to stop practicing them. We should respect the choice of others and their decision to wear a mask, and be mindful of the businesses that continue to require them, Stevens said.

“If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask, you should by all means continue to do so,” he said.

Here’s a practical list of exemptions — and what they mean — so far for VCU students and employees who are fully vaccinated:

[Note: To be eligible for these exemptions, students and employees should report their vaccine record to VCU (vaccinations will be verified) through University Student Health Services or Employee Health, respectively.]

1. You do not need to wear a mask. But keep it on hand for certain situations.

VCU students and employees who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks indoors or outdoors on campus when physical distancing guidelines can be maintained. Those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks.

There are some situations where even those who are vaccinated will be required to mask up. As a general rule, it’s recommended that everyone, vaccinated or not, keep a mask on hand and ready to use.

Here is some additional guidance to help you prepare for those situations:

  • Everyone is required to continue wearing masks in all VCU Health System owned, operated or leased space
  • Check for mask requirements of businesses and public transportation near VCU campuses prior to entering without a mask
  • Students who are attending clinical placements, internships or other learning opportunities at non-VCU sites should consult the policies at those locations for mask requirements

2. Your vaccine is like a force field. You do not necessarily need to quarantine if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Exempt from quarantine means that if you are fully vaccinated, you do not need to quarantine if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. There is a caveat to this exemption: If you present COVID-like symptoms you should quarantine until you can be tested and receive a negative result. Call 804-MYCOVID to connect with University Student Health Services or Employee Health to report any symptoms and receive help arranging a COVID-19 test.

3. You are exempt from surveillance testing at VCU.

This exemption is exactly what it states: You will not be invited to participate in VCU surveillance testing. Planning is still underway for the fall and as of now, surveillance testing will continue to be required for VCU students and employees who are not vaccinated.

4. Daily health checks are a thing of the past.

Exempt from daily health attestation means that you are no longer required to complete a VCU daily health check if you are fully vaccinated — though it may take several days before you stop receiving the daily email reminders. While the vaccine frees you of this requirement, you should still pay attention to your health and call 804-MYCOVID or your health provider if you experience COVID-like symptoms.

5. Your vaccine earns you a permanent green check on your VCU Entry Pass.

Once your vaccination is verified through either Student Health Services or Employee Health, your Entry Pass will automatically display a green check — giving you a permanent fast pass into campus facilities.

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