Alfresco vaccine

Humayoun Akram, a doctoral student at the University of Delaware, receives a COVID-19 vaccination during a Main Street Alfresco event last spring.

University of Delaware employees are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8, UD President Dennis Assanis announced Thursday.

UD already had a vaccine mandate for students but until now, Assanis had avoided a strict mandate for employees, allowing workers to submit to weekly testing instead.

However, a higher-ranking Blue Hen – President Joe Biden – forced the university’s hand with his Sept. 9 executive order mandating vaccines for federal employees and employees of workplaces connected to federal contracts.

“We do intend to comply, because if we don't comply, the impact on our workforce would be tremendous,” Assanis said during a speech to the board of trustees. “Obviously, federal funds support internal employees around the institution and our students and our programs.”

Assanis said the mandate applies to all UD employees, including those in labor unions, those who have already contracted COVID-19 and those who work exclusively from home or outside. Exemptions can be granted for people with legitimate medical or religious reasons.

UD’s human resources department is developing policies for providing paid time off to get the vaccine and the consequences of non-compliance.

Currently 87 percent of employees are vaccinated, including 91 percent of employees who are on campus. Among students, there is a 91 percent vaccination rate.

Assanis said that while the pandemic is still a concern, the university’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies – including the vaccine mandate for students – have paid off.

“I have really appreciated the cooperation and true Blue Hen spirit of everyone in our community to enable us to be here today,” he said.

At the beginning of the semester, UD saw a steep spike in COVID-19 cases – 376 in one week, the worst since the pandemic began. Since then, however, the cases have fallen precipitously. Last week, only 44 cases were reported.

“We feel there is a bright hope on the horizon,” Assanis said.

This semester, he said, 79 percent of undergraduate classes are fully in-person, 15 percent are online only and 6 percent are hybrid.

“Don't expect that we'll probably ever return to 100 percent face-to-face,” Assanis said, adding that the past year has shown that some students do better with online learning.

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