Sweeping changes are coming to COVID-19 policies at several universities in Virginia. The University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and George Mason University (GMU) have all eliminated their requirement that students and staff be fully vaccinated against the virus, and GMU might soon relax its COVID mitigation strategies even further.
Some students at George Mason are feeling a bit hesitant.
Liliana Siguenza said it was just days ago that she last got a notification that someone in one of her classes had tested positive.
Another student, Connor Laskodi, said it happened to him just last week.
However, the university says the positivity rate on campus is down to just 2.4% and nearly 93% of people on campus are already fully vaccinated.
GMU Vice President Paul Allvin said the decision to eliminate the vaccine requirement is also in line with orders from Virginia's new governor and attorney general.
"Well, we're required to get rid of the vaccine requirement based on the order of the governor and the opinion of the attorney general," Allvin said.
News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey has been covering this side of the state since joining NBC4 in 1992. She's joined by reporter Drew Wilder.
On Friday, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares issued a new three-page opinion that stated universities "may not require vaccination against COVID-19 as a general condition of students' enrollment or in-person attendance."
Miyares' opinion concluded the exact opposite of an opinion authored by the previous administration.
But the changes to GMU's policy continue with the university's aim to lift its campus mask mandate in about a month.
"I think it's really beautiful that they're trying to respect people's beliefs and how they feel about things," said student Lindsey McDowell. "I'm a little nervous about the immunocompromised on campus. I know a few of them and it's a little scary."
While GMU officials cite Miyares' opinion that vaccines can't be required, it's worth noting that the attorney general's words aren't binding and it was not an order. Miyares' office told News4 that a university could choose to keep its vaccine requirement in place and that if someone filed a lawsuit, the courts would ultimately decide.
GMU officials say if the campus positivity rate remains under 4% for the next month, they'll lift their indoor mask mandate March 4.