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Regional Interests

CSU to Require COVID-19 Vaccinations for All Students, Faculty and Staff on Campus This Fall

The California State University system — which enrolls more than half a million undergraduate and graduate students — will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all faculty, staff and students returning to any of its 23 campuses this fall, school officials said Tuesday.

CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro cited the rapid spread of the ultra-contagious delta variant as a key driver behind decision, calling the recent uptick in cases “an alarming new factor.”

“Receiving a COVID vaccine continues to be the best way to mitigate the spread of the virus,” Castro said in a statement. “We urge all members of the CSU community to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and announcing this requirement now allows members of the CSU community to receive multiple doses of a vaccine as we head into the beginning of the fall term.”

Vaccination deadlines will vary by campus, but all vaccination status certifications must be completed by Sept. 30, according to the announcement. Officials noted that vaccinations are available at multiple CSU campuses, and encouraged unvaccinated students and staff to contact their schools to determine options and availability.

Students and staff can also seek medical and religious exemptions, and virtual courses will be available for those who forgo vaccinations, officials said.

CSU officials said they plan to unveil their formal vaccination policy in the coming days.

“The goal of this announcement is really to get as many people vaccinated as possible so that we can have as many people on campus and so that we are all safe collectively,” said Michael Uhlenkamp, a CSU spokesperson. “We are planning to have the majority of courses and activities take place in person. I think for the majority of students, they are looking forward to being back on their respective campus in person in the fall, taking part in those robust opportunities to engage with their classmates, their professors, the staff there.” 

Uhlenkamp also said each of the system’s campuses will follow local public health guidelines.

“The campuses are all prepared to be able to implement additional safety measures, whether that is masking or going back to distancing or even testing,” he said.

The CSU announcement comes less than two weeks after the University of California rolled out a similar mandate for its students and faculty, and a day after California officials said vaccine and testing would be required for state employees and health care workers.

CSU officials said they chose to issue the requirement before the vaccines are formally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “because of evolving circumstances.”

California is now reporting an average daily case rate of about 13 per 100,000 — or about 7,700 new cases a day — a marked uptick from a just month ago, although still significantly lower than it was during the winter surge. The delta variant accounted for vast majority of new cases, with unvaccinated people disproportionately impacted.

Catherine Hutchinson, president of the CSU Employees Union, said in a statement that she and other labor officials met with President Castro Tuesday morning, and fully support “all efforts, whether it be through the state or the CSU, to ensure vaccinations reach more Californians.”

And the California Faculty Association — which represents professors and lecturers at all CSU campuses — said its leaders will work with the chancellor’s office to ensure that students and staff are protected from the virus on campus.

“I am vaccinated, and I encourage faculty to get vaccinated if they can so that we all do our part to make the CSU a safe place to work,” CFA President Charles Toombs said in a statement.

Several CSU campuses have already communicated plans with students to verify vaccination status. Some, like Cal State Los Angeles, launched an online certification form earlier this week, asking students to provide verification documentation. It also includes options for those who have medical or religious exemptions.

Tabatha González Manzur, a student at CSU Los Angeles, said she felt a rush of relief on hearing the announcement. She still lives with people who are at high risk of contracting the virus, she said, and remembers the anxiety she felt during the first weeks of the pandemic when her classes were still in person.

“We are still in a pandemic and the variant is scary to deal with,” she said. Requiring proof of vaccination as thousands of her peers prepare to return to in-person learning, “will serve as peace of mind.”

KQED’s Rebecca Smith contributed reporting to this post. 

Copyright 2021 KQED