West Liberty University updates COVID guidelines

West Liberty University (WLU) has updated its protocol regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and has moved towards a mask optional approach. As of Monday, March 21, WLU students and faculty have a choice about wearing a face covering inside buildings.

The decision to relax the mask protocol at West Liberty was reached last week and is supported by the national reduction in the spread of COVID-19 and the decreased number of hospitalizations that have come as a result of lower levels of infection as well as the rising rate of vaccination.

“Our COVID-19 Task Force presented this recommendation to the cabinet based on the fact that it is a reasonable and safe decision to drop the mask requirement due to current CDC and state of West Virginia guidelines. Of course, those who wish to continue to wear a mask for safety (like myself) are welcome to do so,” said Dr. W. Franklin Evans, WLU president, in an article published by Maureen Zambito, director of WLU Media Relations.

Although face coverings will become optional on WLU’s main campus and Highlands center, professors may request that masks continue to be worn in individual classrooms as a safety precaution. Individuals involved in Health Science programs such as dental hygiene, nursing, speech pathology and the physician assistant program are required to follow the mask rule for their course.

Masks will still be available in Student Health Services located in the basement of Shaw Hall for students who have health conditions that make them more vulnerable toward COVID-19. Employees facing similar circumstances can collect an N95 mask in the Business Office.

Alongside the relaxation of mask requirements, WLU has also updated its contact tracing protocol. As of March 14, individuals who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, must isolate for five days, complete a positive report form as someone who has tested positive and inform close contacts of possible exposure. After five days, if symptoms are gone or have greatly resolved, individuals may leave isolation but are advised to wear a mask around others for at least five more days. Those who continue to have a fever after the five day isolation period should not leave isolation until it completely resolves. Student athletes must be seen by an athletic trainer before returning to participation in a sport.

Individuals who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive with COVID-19 and have either been boosted, completed their primary dose of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) in the last five months or completed the primary series of the J&J vaccine within the last two months should wear a mask around others for at least ten days and take a test on the fifth day after exposure.

Unvaccinated individuals, or those who do not meet the above criteria who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, should stay home for five days and continue to wear a mask around others for at least five more. Individuals should test on day five. After being informed of exposure, individuals should complete the WLU positive report form as a direct contact.

Students who have to isolate or quarantine are responsible for informing their professors of their circumstances. Individuals who performed their positive COVID-19 test off-campus should upload a copy of their results to the Student Health Portal. The full, up-to-date protocol can be found here.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), vaccination continues to be the best defense against COVID-19. As the pandemic continues, WLU will continue to track the situation and adjust protocol as required. “We are most grateful to everyone who has assisted us in keeping our campus safe and adhering to safety precautions during the pandemic,” Evans said.