Limestone University has announced its on-campus protocols related to COVID-19 for the Fall 2021 semester.
Limestone President Dr. Darrell Parker has revealed that while the coronavirus vaccine is being strongly encouraged, it will not be mandated by the Gaffney-based institution.
However, prior to arrival on campus, students will be asked to provide Limestone with proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within a specified amount of days prior to coming to campus. For the previous three semesters, Limestone students have been required to provide proof of a negative test prior to moving into campus housing and starting classes.
Based on current health projections, Limestone expects protective face masks and social distancing will not be required this fall, but those who feel more comfortable wearing protective face masks and social distancing will be welcome to do so, Parker noted.
“We are looking forward to the Saints family being back on campus in August – including our students, faculty, and staff,” Parker said. “For those who have been fully vaccinated, the risk for COVID-19 infection is very low. Because of the prominence of the vaccine, we will not be requiring protective face masks on campus for the upcoming fall semester. If someone decides to wear a mask, we will certainly respect that decision. For those who are unvaccinated, it is going to be recommended that they do wear masks because there are still risks of infection out there.
“There are some dangerous variants of the virus floating around,” Parker continued. “For those who are unvaccinated, the potential practices for quarantining and isolation, if they are exposed, may be different. Knowing that people will be making different choices when it comes to vaccinations, it is going to be important for Limestone to know the status before the year starts for students, faculty, and staff members. While the risk of exposure for someone who has been vaccinated is minimal, we will be contact tracing and then informing those who are unvaccinated if they have been possibly exposed. Of course, we will continue to monitor the evolving conditions and adjust as necessary.”
Contact tracing will be conducted for unvaccinated close contacts (any unvaccinated individual within six feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more) of laboratory-confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients, and those unvaccinated individuals identified as close contacts will require a period of self-quarantine. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be isolated from the campus community for the appropriate period of time.
Student-athletes at Limestone who are not vaccinated may be subject to testing protocols as determined by the NCAA and respective conferences. Parker said student-athletes might want to take testing procedures into consideration when making their vaccination choices.
Limestone students, especially those from foreign countries, who are in areas where vaccinations are not readily available will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine once they get to campus.
“Because of the dedication and commitment of our entire campus, we have been as successful as any institution in protecting our university community throughout the coronavirus pandemic, diminishing the impact of the virus, and continuing to provide a meaningful educational experience for our students,” Parker said. “We take great pride in how our Saints responded to those past challenges, and we feel confident our campus community will remain just as diligent in the months ahead.”
Classes for the Fall 2021 semester at Limestone will begin on Monday, August 23.
The South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC) reported recently that 94 percent of the COVID-19 cases during the time of June 1-14 were among people who were not fully vaccinated. DHEC also reported that each of the 11 deaths attributed to COVID-19 during that period were among those not fully vaccinated against the virus.