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<p><p><strong>NAMESAKE’S GREETINGS —</strong> This statue of university namesake John B. Stetson seated on a bench greets visitors near the welcome center on the campus of Stetson University. The slightly-larger-than-life-size statue was installed recently behind Elizabeth Hall, seen in the background.</p></p><p>BEACON PHOTO/JOE CREWS</p>
BEACON PHOTO/JOE CREWS NAMESAKE’S GREETINGS — This statue of university namesake John B. Stetson seated on a bench greets visitors near the welcome center on the campus of Stetson University.

Stetson University will require all full-time staff members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the upcoming fall 2021 semester. Students will be encouraged but not required to get vaccinated.

Dr. Christopher F. Roellke, Stetson University’s president, announced the new plan Aug. 11 during a live broadcast of the president’s “Rolks Report” webinar.

The decision was made in light of the increased risk that the delta variant of COVID-19 poses to the Stetson community and beyond, Roellke said.

“It is our responsibility as Stetson University community members, and members of the broader DeLand and Volusia County community, … that we do our part,” he said during the broadcast.

Other staff members spoke to the importance of being vaccinated during the webinar, including Dr. Asal Johnson, an associate professor of public health.

“Florida is breaking its records day after day,” Johnson said, speaking to the current surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. “The virus is finding the victims wherever it can, and unfortunately, it’s finding its victims about [the] unvaccinated.”

Read more about COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson and her husband, Dr. Allen Johnson, in their Beacon article “Public health pros answer your COVID-19 vaccine questions.”

Vaccination among employees and students will help prevent COVID-19 outbreaks on campus, Asal Johnson told The Beacon.

“A high rate of vaccination alongside other mitigation strategies on campus would be great news for everyone,” she said. “Students are obviously a very important part of this equation, and their vaccination rate matters a great deal.”

Stetson employees will be required to report their vaccination status to the university by Sept. 30. Exemptions will be made, Stetson University spokeswoman Sandra Carr said, for medical conditions and religious beliefs.

Stetson University will offer on-campus vaccination opportunities Wednesday, Aug.18, and Wednesday, Aug. 25. Employees will also receive an additional paid day off as compensation for their being vaccinated.

Overall, Asal Johnson said she hopes the move helps keep the community safe and keeps the fall semester running smoothly.

“This is a right step as it will protect employees from severe illness, hospitalization, and possibly death,” she told The Beacon. “It will also reassure that our campus will not suddenly suffer from staff shortages which would greatly impact the campus as a whole.”

To fight COVID-19 outbreaks, the university has adopted a tiered mitigation strategy. Stetson University’s DeLand campus is currently in tier 2.5, which, among other requirements, calls for physical distancing of at least 6 feet in all public spaces.

Everyone, students and employees, vaccinated or not, is required to wear a face covering indoors, with exceptions made for residence halls and offices as long as unmasked individuals are alone. Face coverings must cover noses and mouths, according to the Safer Stetson website. Neck gaiters, bandannas or face shields without an accompanying mask are not considered proper face coverings.

For more information about the university’s COVID-19 protocols and mitigation plans, visit the Safer Stetson website, HERE.

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