Life on University of Alabama campuses will more or less look like normal this fall semester despite the COVID-19 Delta variant and increasing cases, but students can expect plenty of pressure to get vaccinated.
“We are very concerned about the uptick both in new cases, and we’re disturbed by the limited number of people who are taking advantage of any vaccines in our state,” said Selwyn Vickers, senior vice president and dean of the UAB School of Medicine and chair of the UA System Health and Safety Task Force.
Vickers said he expects campuses to look like they did in 2019, except for some portion of faculty and students who will choose to wear masks, as well as on-campus vaccination stations and testing sites and plenty of encouragement to use them.
The university decided to return to in-person activities because of how much progress has been made in the infection rate and number of deaths, which is due solely to people getting vaccinated, Vickers said. While Alabama has the lowest vaccination rate in the country at 33.7 percent of its population fully vaccinated, the rate for people over 65 is more than 70 percent.
People under 40 is the group that lags the most in the state. Nearly all new cases of COVID-19 that are severe enough to require hospitalization — 95 percent — are people who are unvaccinated.
Vickers noted that Alabama is not allowing the mandating of vaccines. The state passed a law prohibiting vaccine passports in May, although it does not spell out any penalties if the law is violated.
Nothing prevents public institutions from offering incentives for being vaccinated or creating disincentives for being unvaccinated.
Students who haven’t gotten the vaccine and are exposed to the virus will be required to get tested and, if positive, quarantine. Vaccinated students won’t have to quarantine. If unvaccinated students who test positive don’t have the space to quarantine, they’ll have to do it at home.
Schools will send out surveys asking students to respond voluntarily about their vaccination status. Student health offices already have that information but it isn’t public.