The majority of universities that have adopted COVID-19 vaccination mandates for this fall are now in compliance, even though some schools were able to grant exemptions to almost every student who asked.
There are pockets of resistance, scattered lawsuits and colleges that have had to tread cautiously. Forcing students to receive the vaccine if they have religious or medical objections could lead schools into difficult legal territory. Some are concerned that following a rigid line might result in a decrease in enrollment.
However, mandated universities report higher vaccination rates than the communities surrounding them. This is even when there are high levels of vaccine resistance. Some universities report almost perfect compliance at some schools, including the flagship state schools in Maryland and Illinois. This allows them to prevent large outbreaks such as those that disrupted classes one year ago.
Most of the nation’s largest public universities aren’t seeing large numbers of student exemption requests, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. At the same time, those colleges have approved the vast majority — in some cases all — of the requests.
Virginia Tech University is home to 95% of all students who are currently vaccinated. The school allowed 1,600 exemptions from students provided they consented to weekly testing.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has tracked that at least 1,100 colleges require evidence of COVID-19 shots.
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►About 900,000 kids aged 5 to 11 will have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in their first week of eligibility, the White House said Wednesday, providing the first glimpse at the pace of the school-aged vaccination campaign.
►Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday he plans to sign a sweeping legislative package curtailing the authority public schools, local health agencies and businesses have over COVID-19 restrictions.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 46 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 758,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 251 million cases and 5 million deaths. More than 194 million Americans — 58% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: If you’re taking your child to get vaccinated against COVID-19 soon, experts say some approaches can make it easier.
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Judge blocks Texas governor’s ban on mask mandates in schools
Federal Judge ruled Wednesday that Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order that bans schools from imposing mask mandates cannot be enforced because it violates federal law by putting students with disabilities at greater risk.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel also blocked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from bringing legal action against school districts that require students, teachers and staff to wear face coverings as a pandemic safety measure.
The evidence, Yeakel wrote, shows that wearing masks can decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19 — a particularly useful strategy for children with disabilities who can be at higher risk of contracting respiratory disease and from suffering more severe symptoms.
Yeakel explained that GA-38 prohibits schools from requiring students to wear masks. Students with disabilities either have to be expelled entirely or take unnecessarily more health- and safety risks than nondisabled classmates.
Tom Melsheimer (a Dallas attorney who represented students and their families) praised the decision.
“All school districts across the state are free to apply sound medical science to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable. This is a reasonable result. Melsheimer stated.
— Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman
Contributing to The Associated Press