State Watch

Virginia community colleges to require masks indoors

Community colleges in Virginia will require staff and students to wear masks indoors in light of new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week and the rapid spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

In the CDC’s updated guidance on masking last week, it recommended that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas with “substantial” or “high” levels of transmission of COVID-19. 

In a letter to the state’s 23 community college presidents on Wednesday, the chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, Glenn DuBois, said that all of its colleges serve in areas that have either seen substantial or high levels of COVID-19 transmission within the past few days. 

“The rise of the virus’s easily transmitted Delta variant is requiring us, once again, to reconsider what is necessary to continue to pursue our academic mission as safely as possible,” DuBois said in his letter. 

Colleges have been given the ability to choose how the mask mandates will apply in indoor settings and when to start enforcing the rules. 

Vaccinations will not be required for staff or students to return to campuses.

“Together, we will continue to monitor the public health of our community and guidance from authoritative sources, like the CDC and revisit this mandate when needed,” DuBois wrote.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch first reported about DuBois’ letter.

About 55 percent of Virginia’s population is fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. But cases have begun trending upward in the state since mid-July. While the state had reported new cases as low as in the double digits in early July, the state reported 1,761 new cases on Wednesday, per CDC data.

Cities, businesses and schools have begun having their own discussions about whether mask mandates need to be reinstated given the rapid spread of the delta variant in unvaccinated communities. 

Several school districts in Florida have said they will require students to wear masks in classrooms, defying Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) who has said that the choice to wear masks in schools should be made by parents and not schools, The Associated Press reported

Updated 5:38 p.m.

State Watch