‘Surge’ of Montclair State students complying with mandatory vaccination
By LOUIS C. HOCHMAN
A deadline of Aug. 27 for Montclair State University students to be vaccinated or be barred from in-person classes has come and gone — but as of the start of this week, only five students had been dropped from classes.
That doesn’t mean they’re all vaccinated. On Aug. 23, school spokesman Andrew Mees said 90.6% of the 18,461 students who’d registered for on-campus classes were either registered with the school as fully vaccinated or had received at least one shot of a vaccine, and another 6.9% had received approved exemptions. That left 2.6%, or about 480 students, at risk of being disenrolled from their classes.
But over that week, MSU saw “a surge of students” submitting vaccination records, he said. By Monday of this week, fewer than 200 students were out of compliance, but the school was reviewing each person’s records carefully before dropping them.
The school hadn’t originally planned to require vaccination for faculty and staff, but Gov. Phil Murphy this month ordered all state employees — including those of state colleges — to be vaccinated by Oct. 18 or submit to coronavirus testing at least once or twice per week. Mees said as of Tuesday morning, 70% of all MSU employees had submitted proof of vaccination to the school’s voluntary “Vax Check” system.
“This percentage is based on people voluntarily submitting their proof, so it’s almost certainly an undercount,” he said.
He said it’s too soon to say whether MSU will institute a staff requirement sooner than the state’s Oct. 18 deadline, or whether the school will provide testing for unvaccinated staff. Murphy’s order doesn’t specify whether an employer should provide the testing, or require staffers to get tested on their own.
But Mees said MSU will provide testing for the students with vaccine exemptions who are allowed to come to campus. They’ll be tested twice a week at no cost to the students, he said.
The unvaccinated students won’t be able to participate in intercollegiate athletics and club sports, even with exemptions, he said. Students in performing arts degree programs without vaccinations won’t be able to participate in performances, and will be required to be six feet from other students in studio instruction. Unvaccinated students also will be required to live in single rooms if living on campus.
All people on campus are required to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, as well as outdoors when they can’t keep six feet of distance from others.
Students without exemptions have until Sept. 30 to be fully immunized, or be withdrawn from their classes. Students who aren’t yet fully immunized won’t be allowed to move into campus housing, must be tested regularly for coronavirus and must follow other safety precautions shared by unvaccinated students who have exemptions.
And students who don’t have in-person classes — 1,723 this fall — won’t be allowed on campus until they’re fully vaccinated, unless they have approved exemptions.