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University officials discuss fall safety protocols

About 6,200 students began classes on Wednesday for Troy University’s fall semester.

Students are returning to class during a rising epidemic of new COVID-19 cases from the delta variant. On the first day of classes, officials from the university addressed what the safety protocols would be in place for the fall semester.

Dr. Lance Tatum, Troy’s vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, said COVID vaccinations were the first line of defense against the pandemic, but the university wanted the students’ “college experience to be as normal as possible.”

Tatum said the university’s protocol’s for the fall semester were updated last week and are posted online at troy.edu/coronavirus/. The current protocols rescind the Troy Strong COVID-19 safety measures that were in place through the spring. The new protocol isn’t as strict — mainly that vaccinations are encouraged masks are encouraged, but no longer required and university facilities will operate at normal capacities, however social distancing is recommended.

Even tough the protocols are more relaxed than last year, Tatum said safety is still a primary concern for the university.

“We know a lot more this year than we did last year,” Tatum said. “We have the vaccine this year and more people are on campus this year that have taken both doses. We’re a lot more comfortable this year, but we want to remain flexible and pivot if we have to.”

Tatum said as of last Friday, there were 18 members of the university that had reported they had COVID. Tatum said most of those people were not on campus, but had reported their condition to the university, according to university procedures (which are also online at troy.edu/coronavirus/).

Tatum said the university’s Safety Transition Plan emphasized personal responsibility and care for others.

“We’ve revised out protocols and taken a position of placing accountability and responsibility on individuals,” he said. “If students want to mask, we’re going to encourage them to mask, but students aren’t required to wear a mask. Out objective is learning, and we’re opposed to anything that disrupts that. But, last year gave us perspective. We’ll continue looking at our policies and pivot if we have to.”

While there are fewer restrictions on students this fall, Tatum said the university was continuing to make the campus as safe as possible, including offering vaccinations to both students and the community.

Sohail Agboatwala, senior vice chancellor of Student Services, discussed some of the things the university was doing to ensure student safety on campus.

“A lot of universities are incentivizing students to get vaccinated,” Agboatwala said. “What we decided to do was work with the Student Government Association. We asked them ‘How can we keep the campus safe?’”

Agboatwala said with input from the SGA and SGA President Maxwell George, the university came up with a program that offered $1,000 cash scholarships, meal tickets and full meal scholarships. Students who are fully vaccinated can enter a drawing each week to win one of the prizes.

“We hope we’re encouraging students to get vaccinated,” Agboatwala said. “Any student that has completed the vaccine cycle is eligible for the drawings. We’ve extended the drawing period to allow other students who get vaccinated to be eligible for the drawings.”

Tatum said the university was currently conducting an anonymous survey to determine the on campus vaccination rate. He said he expected it to be higher than the current state vaccination average rate.

Agboatwala said the university continues to offer COVID vaccinations to the students and general public. He said the university currently has about 1,800 Moderna doses and 1,700 Pfizer doses. He said the university was eligible to receive more vaccine as needed.

For more information on receiving a vaccine at Troy University, visit covid.troy.edu/ or call 800-414-5756.