Higher education employees in West Virginia have received initial coronavirus vaccine

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 3,000 higher education employees in West Virginia have received initial coronavirus vaccine doses as the 2021 Spring Semester begins to open at colleges, universities and technical schools across the Mountain State.

Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, chancellor for both the Higher Education Policy Commission and the Community and Technical College System, said workers were prioritized based on age and by teaching areas, meaning whether they were instructing in-person with students or not.

Going forward, she said health sciences students working in clinics would also be vaccinated as supplies allowed.

Vaccinations, the timing of which were being determined by availability, coincided with ongoing testing on campuses.

“Everyone’s going to get tested — faculty, staff, students — at the beginning of the semester and then, as the semester goes on, we’ll have surveillance testing on ten percent of our population of students,” Dr. Armstrong Tucker said.

Tuesday was the scheduled first day of the 2021 Spring Semester on campuses that included West Virginia University, Marshall University, Shepherd University, Glenville State College, Concord University and West Liberty University.

At WVU in Morgantown, Keyser and Beckley, there will be no spring break this year. Non-instructional days have been scheduled for Feb. 11, March 2 and March 3. The last days of classes will be Apr. 30 with finals to begin on May 4 after a finals prep day on May 3.

A mix of in-person, hybrid and online-only classes were planned.

A negative COVID-19 test was required for WVU students in Morgantown attending in-person courses or using on-campus resources like libraries and dining facilities.

Most affected students were assigned testing dates last week.

At Marshall in Huntington, all students were being testing when they returned to campus using self-administered, saliva-based tests. Employees had three days to be tested once they were back on the job.

The first four days of Marshall’s previously-scheduled spring break were canceled. No classes were to be held on March 19. Marshall’s spring semester was scheduled to end on Apr. 23 with final exams from Apr. 24 to Apr. 30.

The start of the spring semester had been pushed back by one week to Jan. 19 at Shepherd University. The bulk of spring break was also canceled there and, like at Marshall, no classes were planned on March 19.

West Liberty University previously canceled its spring break.

Classes complying with COVID-19 protocols began on Jan. 11 at Wheeling University, West Virginia State University, Bluefield State College and Fairmont State University.

The spring semester was set to start on Jan. 25 at West Virginia Wesleyan with the last day for classes at Wesleyan coming on May 1.

“I think we’re a lot better off because we’ve been through this before,” Dr. Armstrong Tucker told MetroNews at the start of the spring semester in the ongoing pandemic.

During the fall, the cumulative positivity rate was 1.9 percent in weekly testing at all colleges and universities in West Virginia

“There’s no question that people have COVID fatigue and that will continue throughout the semester, but we just need folks to hang in there just a few more months until we can get enough people vaccinated that we can start returning to life a little bit more normally.”