SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Westminster College announced that all employees and students need to be fully vaccinated by October 15 and that its reinstating its indoor mask policy.
“There are a lot of opinions around this but Westminster really believes that for us, to protect our in person environment and our student, faculty, and staff population, we felt this was the best choice for us,” Chief Marketing Officer Sheila Rappazzo Yorkin explains.
ABC4 spoke with several students who said they are not surprised by the vaccine requirement because the college made it clear that would be a possibility a few months ago.
Sheila Rappazzo Yorkin said the FDA will fully approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by early September, which will give the community up to six weeks to be fully vaccinated by the set date. She said legally required exemptions including health, medical, and religious reasons will be honored in the process.
“When I heard about the announcement, I was actually greatly relieved,” sophomore Lucas Arico says.
“Overall I haven’t heard a lot of pushback from students. I think the ones that I’ve spoken to so far have all been pretty positive about it. The majority of the folks I’ve been in contact with have already been vaccinated so its not really that much of an ask at this point to make sure that they are,” student body president Brendan Sudberoy shares with ABC4.
“I like the idea of having everyone vaccinated because I’m high risk. I also did all of last year at high school remote, so it just makes me feel more comfortable to have everyone be vaccinated because I am still getting used to being around a lot of people,” freshman Sarah King explains.
“I think a couple of people might withdraw but I think the majority of students are going to breathe a little more easy,” Director of Student Success and Retention Dr. Christie Fox states.
Students and staff are going to have to get used to wearing a mask again as the indoor mask policy is reinstated.
“I can definitely see the possibility of students getting a little upset like ‘hey I’m vaccinated I just want my mask off’ and it can get a little rough especially switching on off on off,” Arico says.
However, the school said once cases drop, they will change their policy.
“Hopefully that aligns with the deadline of being vaccinated and as we can meet that deadline of having everyone vaccinated by October 15 and the transmission rates hopefully indicate that we can have masks off and we want to do that of course,” Sheila Rappazzo Yorkin tells ABC4.
One parent told ABC4 News that he feels relieved knowing these new strict guidelines are in place considering his daughter is high risk.
“We were happier and confident yesterday and we’re even more thrilled today that the campus is responding to the most recent information,” father Kevin King states.
State law prevents schools from requiring masks or vaccines, however, since Westminster College is a private college they are able to enforce its own rules.
“I feel very thankful in that regard to be a Westminster student and knowing that since we’re a private institution we can set some of those different guidelines,” Brendan Sudberoy said.