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American University to end COVID-19 vaccine mandate and PCR test distribution in May

Vaccines and boosters will be strongly recommended and rapid tests will be available

American University announced new COVID-19 protocols that, starting May 11, will put an end to COVID-19 vaccine requirements and PCR test distribution, according to a Tuesday email to the community.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters will still be strongly recommended for all community members and guests, including May Commencement attendees. Rapid tests can be picked up on Main Campus, at the Washington College of Law, Spring Valley Building and the 4401 Connecticut Ave. building, but the PCR vending machines used during the 2022-2023 academic year will be discontinued.

“We will continue to use the latest information and conditions to inform our decisions,” said Fanta Aw, the vice president of undergraduate enrollment, campus life, and inclusive excellence and Sarah Baldassaro, the interim vice president of student affairs and inclusive excellence in an email sent to the AU community on March 7. “Our approach moving forward is to support community health and safety within the context of the overall public health situation, advance good health choices and behavior by our community members, and recognize that individual response elements will continue to change.”

The email comes after President Joe Biden’s announcement that the public health emergency declared for the coronavirus pandemic will end on May 11. D.C. is currently experiencing moderate COVID-19 transmission with 210 cases recorded last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the email, the self-report form for coronavirus cases will still be active for community members in order to get a letter from the Dean of Students to share with professors or enable Human Resources to notify the appropriate supervisors.

With the exception of the Student Health Center, Center for Well-Being Programs and Psychological Services and the Academic Support and Access Center, masks will continue to be optional. The University will continue distributing masks at the Mary Graydon Center information desk, the AU Welcome Center in the Katzen Arts Center for prospective families, the Spring Valley Building, the WCL Warren Reception Desk and the first floor reception desk at the 4401 Connecticut Ave. building. 

The announcement elaborated, “If a member of our community asks others to mask when in close contact with one another, please treat these requests with respect and give them full consideration,” and that “Anyone who tests positive for COVID should wear a mask when in public or in proximity to others.”

Isolation protocols will continue to require positive community members living on campus to isolate in their own residences, allowing them to leave to obtain food or supplies, seek medical care or other necessary activities. 

“Beginning in May, university staff will no longer proactively reach out to individuals who test positive,” the email said.

For community members who are immunocompromised, the University suggested steps they should take to protect themselves amid the new protocols. 

“The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends immunocompromised individuals consult with their physician, adopt a regular booster/vaccine regimen, and wear masks,” the email said. “We also have processes for requesting reasonable accommodations for students and for faculty and staff.”

The University said that all community members should wash their hands, stay home if they are sick and get tested if they have been exposed or are symptomatic.

This article was edited by Abigail Turner and Nina Heller. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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