University System of Maryland details COVID, monkeypox response for fall

The University of Maryland, College Park will continue to require COVID vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff this fall semester, but it’s still deciding whether to require masks in classrooms.

For now, wearing a KN95 mask indoors is “strongly encouraged.”

“We do anticipate a semester that, if all goes well, will be pretty close to our pre-pandemic normal,” University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay Perman said at Monday’s special meeting of the Board of Regents.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore is also requiring all students to be vaccinated, while some other schools in the system — such as the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Bowie State — are only requiring the shots for residential students. UMBC is requiring masks in classrooms.

The University of Maryland, College Park is strongly encouraging everyone returning to campus to take a rapid antigen test at least 24 hours before arrival.

Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer recommends quarantine for COVID-19 exposures, the university system doesn’t need anywhere near as much quarantine space as it did before.

“Each university does have beds reserved for isolation. However, most universities are asking students to stay or return home if they’re symptomatic or test positive,” Perman said. “The small number of on-campus rooms reserved for isolation are generally for students who cannot easily get home — for instance, international students.”

COVID-19 isn’t the only virus the university system is closely monitoring after a presumptive case of monkeypox popped up at the state’s College Park campus.

“We had our first confirmed case of monkeypox on a system campus last week, and with the nationwide rate doubling — it appears — about every two weeks, we probably can expect to see more. Having said that, I think we’ve also seen reports that instances of the disease are leveling off in European countries,” Perman said.

Because the supply of monkeypox vaccines is so limited, doses are not being distributed to college campuses.

“Fortunately, our local health departments do have some,” Perman said.

The university system understands that people who contract monkeypox will need time away from class to isolate and recuperate.

“Just as we have with COVID, we’re asking faculty to be sensitive to those who need to be excused from class,” Perman said.

The first day of classes at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus is Aug. 29.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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