GV updates indoor face covering policy


GVL / Meghan Landgren

Jacob DeWeerd, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University’s face covering policy has been updated for the upcoming Fall 2021 semester, no longer requiring vaccinated individuals to wear face coverings indoors in most areas. The new policy arrived with the June 21 update from the Virus Action Team (VAT) which also states that areas like classrooms, labs, and COVID-19 testing sites will still require face coverings to be worn regardless of vaccination status.

The face covering policy has not changed for unvaccinated individuals. They are still required to mask up in all indoor areas except their dorm rooms when only they and their roommates are present, dining areas when eating or drinking, and enclosed spaces when they are the sole occupant, according to the VAT.

The decision to update the face covering policy was made, at least in part, because of guidance from the State of Michigan, Campus Readiness Team Chair Rence Meredith said.

“Certainly the State of Michigan and MiOSHA executive orders being rescinded played a part in the change but GVSU campuses have been extremely safe spaces throughout the pandemic,” Meredith said. “We are taking small, incremental steps to maintain that safety with a goal of getting back to normal.”

GVSU is seeing encouraging vaccination statistics as the Fall 2021 semester approaches. According to the Lakers Together website, nearly 80% of faculty and staff have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and over 4,000 students have self-reported that they received at least one dose as well. Those numbers also contributed to the updated face covering policy and if they improve, restrictions could be eased even more, Meredith said.

“We are basing decisions on the GVSU community and the vaccination rates that exist among faculty, staff and students,” Meredith said. “If we all do the right things, normal is right around the corner.”

Despite GVSU’s campuses slowly returning to pre-pandemic normal, there is still a long way to go before face coverings and COVID-19 related restrictions fade away. As new COVID-19 variants like Delta emerge, stricter guidelines and restrictions could also return to ensure the safety of all GVSU faculty, staff and students.

“We continue to monitor state, federal and CDC guidance surrounding COVID-19 variants. We meet regularly with the Ottawa and Kent county health departments and are all actively monitoring the Delta variant,” Greg Sanial, vice president for Finance and Administration and director of the VAT said. “Right now West Michigan is not an area of concern; that obviously could change quickly.”

Sanial said the VAT is following the state of Michigan’s guidelines for COVID-19 restrictions and will make future decisions based on those guidelines. The state’s current guidelines closely resemble GVSU’s but if policy differences exist, the university recommends the more restrictive rules be followed.

Some schools around the country, including the University of Michigan, are implementing mandatory vaccination rules for faculty, staff and students living on campus. GVSU does not have such a mandate at this time, but the VAT is carefully evaluating the need for a possible mandate, Sanial said. 

“GVSU does not have a mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine for the Fall semester, but will continue to evaluate a possible mandate as the situation evolves to include potential full FDA approval,” Sanial said. “Our current focus is to encourage vaccinations and make them accessible on campus.”

Updated state COVID-19 guidelines can be found at www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/, and GVSU’s own COVID-19 dashboard, including a complete breakdown of the most recent face covering guidelines, is located at www.gvsu.edu/lakerstogether/.