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UMCP, Towson expand their COVID-19 booster requirements

Since the University System of Maryland’s Friday announcement that it would require its residential students to receive COVID-19 booster shots for the upcoming spring semester, several USM institutions have made further announcements regarding booster shots and other COVID-19 safety measures.

Most notably, the USM’s two biggest universities — its flagship school, the University of Maryland, College Park, and Towson University — have decided to require all members of their campuses, including faculty, staff and students, to get boosted. This is a broader policy than the one enacted at the system level, which only requires residential students receive the additional shot.

If eligible, UMCP students and employees must get the booster by Jan. 24, the first day of spring semester classes, or within 14 days of becoming eligible, according to an email communication sent out by UMCP President Darryll Pines on Friday evening.

Similarly, an email to the Towson University community said students and employees have until the first day of their semester, Jan. 31, or 14 days after becoming eligible, to get the shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who received the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines are eligible to get their booster five months after their first two shots, while those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible two months after their shot.

According to Pines’ email, students and employees who do not comply with this mandate and do not have an approved medical or religious exemption are not allowed on campus.

“As has been our practice from the beginning of the pandemic, there will continue to be significant consequences for students, faculty and staff for non-compliance up to and including suspension and termination of employment,” the email said.

Both universities had high compliance rates for fall 2021’s vaccine mandate, which required all students, staff and faculty to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or apply for a medical or religious exemption. Towson boasts a 100% compliance rate, with both those who received the vaccine and those who received an exemption counting towards that number; UMCP’s COVID-19 dashboard reports that 98.2% of its campus population is vaccinated.

Other schools will stick more closely with the USM’s guidance and require the booster only of students living on campus. Salisbury University will only require residential students to get boosted; however, non-residential students who choose not to receive booster shots will be have to take Salisbury-distributed COVID-19 tests twice a week.

Those who do not comply with this requirement will lose access to campus buildings and WiFi.

“Faculty are not required to excuse coursework missed due to non-compliance with this testing requirement,” university spokesperson Jason Rhodes noted in an email.

Frostburg State University and Bowie State University also do not plan to extend the USM’s booster mandate to the larger campus community, university spokespeople told The Daily Record. As of Monday afternoon, there are still several universities that have not made announcements regarding booster shots, including the system’s third-largest institution, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.