Virtual Town Hall answers COVID-19 questions

GVSU Students during move-in week 2020 // Courtesy to

Audrey Whitaker, News Editor

A panel of Grand Valley State University officials responded to questions from the GVSU community via zoom. The virtual town hall also provided updates on campus life as the fall semester approaches.

The virtual town hall took place on August 19, while questions were submitted in advance by those who registered for the event online. 

Questions centered around the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and mask requirements.

Greg Sanial, vice president for Finance and Administration and director of the Virus Action Team, said that mask, vaccine and testing requirements work together as a “three-legged stool” to keep the GVSU community safe.

Sanial emphasized that the vaccine mandate is tied to FDA approval, which is expected by Labor Day. The Sept. 30 deadline for GVSU students, faculty and staff provides ample time to receive the vaccine once it is approved, Sanial said.  

“If that FDA approval is delayed, we could look to adjust that September 30 date,” Sanial said. “It’s important to keep in mind that FDA approval is coming, it is going to happen at some point. So for those of you that are not vaccinated, we encourage you to get vaccinated when you’re comfortable”

Sanial also defended the legality of the vaccine mandate, citing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s approval for employers requiring vaccine for their employees, as well as the US Supreme Court refusing to hear an appeal of the Seventh Circuit’s decision upholding Indiana University’s right to require vaccines of its faculty staff and students.

“This signals the courts’ support of universities taking steps in the interest of public health and safety,” Sanial said.

 An exemption committee has been formed to process requests for postponements and exemptions to the vaccine requirement for health, religious or other reasons, Sanial said. The committee is already up and running.

“This exemption committee is comprised of individuals with backgrounds in diversity inclusion, healthcare, human resources, legal, and religion, and this committee will review applications for people that are requesting both religious exemptions, medical exemptions, and then also postponements,” Sanial said.

Postponements are intended for students, faculty and staff who are learning or working remotely this semester, or will be under the age of 18 on Sept. 30, Ed Aboufadel, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, said.

Sanial said that those who have submitted exemption or postponement requests can expect to receive a decision before the 100% tuition deadline on Sept. 3. 

Dr. Habiba Hassouna, an infectious disease doctor from Spectrum Health and a member of GVSU’s Virus Action Team, answered questions regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. 

“The vaccines that are found in the United States are highly effective in preventing severe infections, death, and hospitalization against different variants, including the Delta variant,” Hassouna said.

Kristi Cooper, senior affiliate faculty of nursing, said that free vaccine clinics will supply the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on both the Allendale and Pew campus during move-in and the first week of classes. GVSU will also offer free testing to those who remain unvaccinated, Cooper said.

 Finally, representatives from human resources, facilities, Dean of Students office, housing, campus dining, Campus Readiness Team and sports shared brief updates for the fall semester.

GVSU president Philomena Mantella concluded the town hall by encouraging students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Mantella asked the GVSU community to act with care towards each other.

“Let’s act with respect. If we disagree, if we have questions, if people aren’t doing the right thing, appreciate where they may be coming from, appreciate the differences of our backgrounds,” Mantella said. “Use education as a tool, get them to the right location and let’s get people in conformance so that we can have a full community experience and we can all be safe and we can be supporting one another.”


For more information regarding vaccine and mask requirements, vaccine information, free testing and vaccination clinics at GVSU, visit the Lakers Together website.