Graduation plans fluctuate throughout Virginia universities

By Sarah Elson

College graduations will nonetheless look completely different as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, however extra Virginia universities are returning to in-person ceremony.

Graduations will probably be held on-line, in particular person or a hybrid format. Gov. Ralph Northam introduced final month preliminary steering for commencement occasions, which continues to be up to date.

“The acceleration of the vaccine program and the decrease in new COVID-19 cases make it safer to ease restrictions on activities like in-person graduations,” Northam stated in March.

Graduation occasions for Ok-12 colleges and faculties will function beneath two units of tips, relying on the date. Graduation occasions held outside earlier than May 15 will probably be capped at 5,000 individuals or 30% of the venue capability, whichever is much less. Graduation occasions held indoors could have as much as 500 individuals, or 30% of the venue capability, whichever is much less.

More individuals can attend graduations held on or after May 15. The governor’s orders enable a rise to 50% of venue capability or 5,000 individuals at outside graduations. Indoor occasions can not exceed both 50% venue capability or 1,000 individuals.

Attendees should put on masks and comply with different tips and security protocols to make sure social distancing.

Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond will maintain a university-wide graduation ceremony on-line on May 15, in response to an announcement the college launched final month. Individual departments can determine whether or not to carry in-person commencement.

VCU College of Humanities and Sciences will maintain three in-person commencement ceremonies outside on May 15. The ceremonies will probably be held rain or shine on an out of doors discipline used for sports activities. Guests are usually not allowed to attend, however the ceremonies will probably be livestreamed.

 Britney Simmons, a senior VCU mass communications main graduating in May, has issues about attending an in-person occasion.

“I’d prefer that graduation is online,” Simmons said in a textual content message. “I’m still uncomfortable with large gatherings and wouldn’t feel comfortable with me or any of my family attending and putting their health at risk.”

Federal well being businesses known as for a pause of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this month as a consequence of stories of blood clots in some people who acquired it. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration panel late final week recommended restarting the J&J vaccinations, with an added warning in regards to the danger of uncommon blood clots.

“The university really put its hope in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and that lots of students would be vaccinated by commencement,” mentioned Tim Bajkiewicz, an affiliate professor of broadcast journalism at VCU and the communications director for the American Association of University Professors. “Because of the pause that the CDC put on that vaccine, it really kind of blew a huge hole in those plans.”

Students and school initially scheduled to obtain the one-dose J&J shot needed to quickly shift to a brand new timetable with the incremental, two-dose photographs that might make it tougher for everybody to obtain a vaccine by commencement.

VCU spokesman Michael Porter didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark about any doable issues the college may encounter from that pause of the J&J vaccine.

“The ceremonies are already super stripped-down,” Bajkiewicz mentioned. “But still over this whole thing is a pronounced risk of getting COVID-19.”

Virginia Tech in Blacksburg could have 16 in-person graduation ceremonies by school from May 10 to May 16 at Lane Stadium, the college’s soccer stadium. Graduating college students are required to register and college students are allowed to ask as much as 4 company.

Virginia Tech will even maintain a digital graduation ceremony on May 14.

Sarah Hajzus, a senior industrial and methods engineering main at Virginia Tech, mentioned she would favor to have commencement in particular person.

“Small, in-person [graduation], if we were to do it by major I feel like that would be ideal,” Hajzus mentioned.

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville will maintain its graduation outside on May 21 to May 23 for the category of 2021. Students will stroll the garden and course of to Scott Stadium, the place every scholar can have two company. The class of 2020 will even get an opportunity to stroll and attend a particular ceremony, according to U.Va. President Jim Ryan.

Other Virginia universities will maintain spring commencement utterly on-line. George Mason University launched an announcement that its spring graduation will probably be held nearly. The ceremony is ready for Friday, May 14 at 2 p.m.

 VCU students and staff are usually not required, however inspired, to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Over 43% of the state’s inhabitants had acquired at the least one-dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“It is really sad that I won’t be able to have an in-person graduation since I looked forward to having one all four years, but I think everyone’s health is more important than a graduation ceremony,” Simmons said.

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