Virginia State University is no longer requiring employees to be COVID-19 vaccinated or tested. Get the full story from writer Bill Atkinson at The Progress-Index below.

Virginia State University/WAVY

The policy now changes to “requests, encourages, and appeals to” staffers , in accordance with governor’s directive. Mask-wearing is still required, and the student vaccine policy does not change.

Virginia State University said Thursday it will comply with a directive from Gov. Glenn Youngkin to not require COVID-19 vaccines for state employees, opting to go instead with a policy that “strongly requests, encourages, and appeals to” university personnel to get their shots.

University spokesperson Gwen Williams Dandridge confirmed in an email to The Progress-Index that vaccines will not be required, nor will reporting of an employee’s vaccination status or being tested “as a term of employment.” Masks, however, will still be mandated for everyone on campus.

“[T]he VSU administration strongly requests, encourages, and appeals to all employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots as part of our campus efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and maintain a safe and healthy campus environment,” Dandridge said in the email. “VSU will continue to enforce a strict mask mandate for all employees at all times when on campus except when eating or alone in an individual office.”

Wednesday, Youngkin issued an executive order rescinding the vaccination requirement for all employees of Virginia’s executive branch of government. That includes the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of the commonwealth, as well as executive branch agencies and authorities, and staffs at Virginia institutions of higher learning.

That order had been issued by Youngkin’s predecessor, former Gov. Ralph Northam.

As of last fall, Dandridge said, 91% of VSU employees had complied with the vaccination requirement, which led to a COVID on-campus positivity rate of less than 1%. VSU will continue to offer free testing, vaccination clinics and masks to its workers.

The change does not affect VSU’s vaccine and mask requirement for students on-campus, Dandridge said. Those protocols “will remain in effect,” she wrote.

“VSU has created a culture of responsibility and safety,” Dandridge said.

The governor’s directive will also apply to the area’s other colleges, Richard Bland College and John Tyler Community College.