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'We need to get back to normal': WSU requires students, staff to be vaccinated for COVID by fall 2021

Students and staff will have to provide proof of the COVID-19 vaccination to engage in activities at a WSU campus or location.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Washington State University announced Wednesday that students and staff will be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 for the fall 2021 semester.

According to the university, students and staff will have to provide proof of the COVID-19 vaccination to engage in activities at a WSU campus or location. All students living in university-owned housing will need to provide proof of vaccination, or approved exemption, by Aug. 6, 2021. For students who have been given exemptions, the university said it may modify housing assignments as it deems necessary.

Students not living in university owned campus must show proof of vaccination or exemption by Nov. 1, 2021. If students miss the deadline, the university won’t allow them to register for the spring semester and could face other restrictions.

Students with approved exemptions may be required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and/or other COVID-19 public health measures.

RELATED: Here's where Spokane, North Idaho colleges stand in requiring COVID-19 vaccines

Exemptions will be allowed for medical, religious or personal reasons, school leaders said. Information about how to submit proof of vaccination or how to request exemption will be provided in the coming months, according to the announcement.

Students whose programs are fully online are automatically exempted from the vaccine requirement.

The university will accept proof of any vaccine that was authorized for use in the United States. For vaccinations requiring two doses, students and employees must have received both doses of the vaccine to meet the requirement.

"We intend to have face to face classes, the vast majority of our courses are going to be fully face-to-face," WSU Spokesperson Phil Weiler said.  "We want to be able to have fans in the stands for football, for basketball for volleyball, all those indoor kinds of sports. If we can get the the population vaccinated, we'll be able to to have student activities will be able to have large group gatherings and do it in a safe way. So that's that's really the driver behind us wanting to put a requirement in places we need to get back to normal."

Weiler said the school is hoping sporting events will be able to take place at 50% capacity. If the school sees that a large percentage of the state population has been vaccinated, they may be able to expand capacity for sports. 

"We are we are being conservative and saying that it's going to be a 50% capacity, but we're holding out hope that it can be larger," Weiler said.

WSU has been working with Whitman County Public Health Department to get people vaccinated. 

"We've had staff volunteering at the mass vaccination clinics that the county has been putting on," Weiler said. "We've also been holding vaccination clinics for our students on campus. So we've got we'll have more than probably 3,000 students fully vaccinated before the end of the semester, which is great news. It's really important to us that the students who have chosen to come to Pullman this last semester, get vaccinated before they return home. We don't want them to be inadvertently bringing the illness back with them to infect family members and friends and neighbors."