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More than a year after COVID-19 forced students online, colleges are still trying to assess the best course of action to keep students and faculty safe.

The core faculty of the John V. Roach Honors College proposed a vaccine mandate for TCU on Oct. 13.

“A campus-wide vaccine requirement ensures a safer, healthier TCU community,” according to the vaccine statement sent to TCU leadership.

“The statement is an encouragement to let campus members know the signers support protecting our community through vaccination,” said Ron Pitcock, interim dean of the John V. Roach Honors College.

Honors faculty are currently in conversation with the Provost, the Chancellor and the Faculty Senate on this matter, said Rob Garnett, associate dean of the John V. Roach Honors College.

Because the vaccine mandate has not been approved at this time, specifics about how it would work are not set in clear.

“The Honors faculty values in-person learning and campus safety; at the same time I recognize vaccine mandates are complex with federal and state regulations, pending OSHA standards and other considerations for those not able to get vaccinated,” said Pitcock

According to the Honors faculty statement, those who cannot receive the vaccine due to strongly held religious beliefs, allergies or other medical conditions would contribute to campus safety by receiving COVID-19 tests once or twice a week.

Regular testing is advisable at least until the rate of community transmission in Tarrant County falls below 50 new cases per week per 100,000 people, and fewer than 8% of COVID-19 tests in the county are positive, Honors core faculty said.

Read more: Honors College challenges students’ knowledge of Fort Worth with experimental course

Other universities across the nation, including Baylor and Rice, have implemented a similar vaccination and testing policy.

Baylor does not require a COVID-19 vaccination, but it is strongly encouraged. For those not fully vaccinated, Baylor requires they take a COVID-19 test once a week. Masks are required indoors for everyone.

Rice requires vaccinated faculty and staff to be tested for COVID-19 once every two weeks. Vaccinated students must test once a week. All unvaccinated students, faculty and staff are required to test twice every week. Masks are required indoors for all students. Vaccinated professors are allowed to remove their masks while lecturing as long as they remain 10 feet away from students, and unvaccinated professors must keep their masks on indoors at all times.

With no vaccine mandate in place at TCU, leadership is trying to find new ways to encourage students to get vaccinated and keep campus safe.

“Our campus health center has done a great job of making vaccines free, easy and readily available at a walk-in clinic,” said Pitcock.

There are weekly prizes for reporting your vaccination including $5,000 worth of free tuition, $1,000 campus cash and reserved parking.

TCU COVID-19 Statistics

TCU COVID-19 statistics as of Oct. 22. Visit https://www.tcu.edu/protect-the-purple/covid-data.php for updated information.

As of Oct. 22, 432 new positive cases were reported in the 2021 fall semester. The monthly positives rate has dropped significantly compared to August and September of this year.

While COVID-19 cases have been dropping, it’s worth noting that in the 2021 spring semester (Jan. 1 through May 14), 432 positive cases were reported. In approximately two months, TCU has matched the COVID-19 case count of an entire semester.

A graph included in an email from the provost comparing COVID-19 numbers from 2020 and 2021 fall semesters. (Photo courtesy of Provost Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg)

September through November of 2020 was rough for COVID-19 cases, which is something we need to be aware of this semester, said Director of Emergency Management Sean Taylor at the Oct. 7 Faculty Senate meeting.

The current number of new cases closely relates to that of the 2020 fall semester. If the pattern continues, TCU will see another spike in cases in the coming weeks.

As of Oct. 22, the total number of students, faculty and staff vaccinated is 7,864. This number has increased since the previous week when the number was 7,760.

The reason the vaccination number is displayed to the public as a total number rather than a percentage breakdown is an effort to not alienate certain groups and provide a community picture instead, said Taylor at the Faculty Senate meeting.

As of Oct. 7, the percentage breakdown of vaccinations was 80% of faculty, 67% of staff, and 50% of students, according to Taylor.

Protect the Purple reports only six total (students and employees) active cases for COVID-19, as of Oct. 26.

The TCU COVID-19 Dashboard is updated weekly. For updated information, visit https://www.tcu.edu/protect-the-purple/covid-data.php.

Tarrant County Statistics

According to the Tarrant County COVID-19 Statistics Dashboard on Oct. 22, there are 13,702 active cases in Tarrant County. The community spread level is high. The number of new cases weekly is on a downward trend, but if Tarrant County statistics mimic those of last year, there will be another spike starting in November.

For more detailed and frequently updated information, visit https://www.tarrantcounty.com/en/public-health/disease-control—prevention/COVID-19.html.

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