Local colleges rolling back COVID-19 precautions

Published 12:06 am Thursday, March 31, 2022

SALISBURY — Local education institutions have begun to ramp down COVID-19 precautions as cases and hospitalizations have continued to gradually decline.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College will be the latest to lower some of its own restrictions. Effective April 4, masks will no longer be required on campus, but will still be recommended.

The college is still strongly recommending people on campus wear masks if they are at a higher risk due to the disease, unvaccinated or have family that is unvaccinated.

RCCC is also discontinuing its vaccination reporting and weekly testing requirement. After April 4, unvaccinated employees will no longer have to submit their test results to the college.

Some things are sticking around. The extra cleaning and disinfecting will continue along with disinfection stations and extra ventilation. The capacity of all the campus facilities will also go back to their pre-pandemic levels.

Chief Community Relations Officer Sarah Devlin said the changes are in response to the low COVID-19 classification from the CDC locally.

Catawba College made masks optional for anyone on campus who is vaccinated on March 5, citing a vaccination rate of more than 98% among the people on campus and the decreasing local cases.

However, masks are still required in learning spaces including classrooms, labs and studios. Instructors can allow students to remove their masks.

Catawba has a vaccine requirement and Director of Marketing and Communications Jodi Bailey said the college has not had any conversations about requiring boosters yet.

“I am sure we will have that conversation at some point,” Bailey said, adding the college does not plan to make a change to the vaccine policy for the rest of the semester.

Livingstone College still requires masks indoors and the protocols it updated in late January have not been changed. Livingstone was among the first colleges in the state to adopt a vaccine requirement and require universal testing for the campus.

For K-12 schools, Rowan-Salisbury Schools has been mask-optional since late October. Kannapolis City Schools made masks optional on Feb. 28 and that district’s Board of Education reaffirmed that decision on March 14.

The state has ramped down its tracking of the pandemic as well, tracking community metrics and COVID-19 particulate in wastewater on a weekly basis rather than daily.

In March, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services moved to recommending schools use voluntary masking and updated the requirement for masks to be worn on school buses per federal law as well. The department also discontinued excluding students after exposure if they do not have symptoms and performing contact tracing.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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