WEST CHESTER, Pa. - Universities are planning to fully reopen in the fall and there’s a mix on how to handle vaccines. Some are making it mandatory for students and staff, while others are not. The question is, what goes into making that decision?
Dan Murphy and his friends have their COVID-19 vaccine and are ready for a semester in-person at West Chester University, even if it’s masked.
"I can see why they’re doing it. I think it should only be towards the people who are unvaccinated," Murphy stated.
"I just think everyone should be vaccinated. I don’t know what the big deal is," student John Murphy commented.
But, as a state system university, per state law, West Chester University is among 14 schools that cannot legally mandate COVID-19 vaccines for the 17,000 plus students and approximately 1,900 staff. Though, President Dr. Chris Fiorentino told FOX 29 he likely would have.
Cheyney, Kutztown and Millersville Universities are also on the list.
Many universities in the Delaware Valley are requiring them and some are just for students.
Still, Fiorentino says it’s not impacting their plans to fully reopen in the fall.
"They now have that in their hands. They can decide whether they choose to be safe or not. It’s no longer my problem to make that decision for people," Dr. Fiorentino remarked.
What he can decide is universal masking indoors in crowded spaces, like classrooms and hallways.
Masks will not be required outside.
He says that’s coming from the CDC, guidance they followed all along.
"This is, to me, not a political issue," Dr. Fiorentino stated. "We want everyone to be safe. We don’t want anyone to get sick, but we have an organization to run and we believe we can run it safely."
"We know so much, so I’m glad we’re starting with a focus of in-person," Chester County Health Director Jeanne Franklin said.
Franklin says Chester County, with a moderate transmission risk, as of Wednesday, is also referring all educators to the CDC and state guidelines. She says the majority of new cases in the county are among people who are unvaccinated.
"Which means this is still preventable, but certainly it taps into personal choice about getting the vaccine. I would recommend if someone chooses not to get a vaccine, to seriously consider more proactive mask wearing," Franklin explained.
As for just wearing one in class, for now, student Philip Lacene is understanding.
"I’m completely willing to wear a mask, but if they think we should wear masks, maybe it should be online school again. But, you know, we’ll see how it goes," Lacene said.