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'Grave concern'| New Orleans higher education prepares for classes amid rising COVID case numbers

The COVID vaccine is required for all students on or off campus at Loyola University, Dillard University, Xavier University, and Tulane University.

NEW ORLEANS — As COVID cases rise across Louisiana, colleges and universities are taking a second look at their COVID safety plans.

Dr. James Ammons, Chancellor at Southern University of New Orleans, said there’s “grave concern” as school starts back up.

“This is a very, very difficult time for us because there are so many uncertainties,” said Dr. Ammons. “We have a grave concern. And again, it goes back to the low vaccination rates.”

Across New Orleans, colleges and universities are taking a second look at their pandemic plans for the fall semester.

The COVID vaccine is required for all students on or off-campus at Loyola University, Dillard University, Xavier University, and Tulane University.

Tulane, which tested every one on campus bi-weekly through the pandemic, will announce its testing protocols in the coming weeks. The massive testing effort last school year consistently lowered Orleans Parish’s percent positivity rate.

But COVID vaccines are not required at the University of New Orleans and Southern University of New Orleans.

Thursday, UNO President John Nicklow sent an email to the campus, requiring masks at all indoor facilities at UNO, regardless of vaccination status.

The message read in part, “This may seem harsh but, given that there are still many unvaccinated people in our community, it is simply the best way to slow the spread and prevent further illness.”

At SUNO, students must test negative for COVID or prove vaccination before moving into on-campus housing.

Dr. Ammons said there are “legal concerns” with implementing a vaccination requirement because it’s a public university.

“We are hopeful, but again we have grave concerns because of the high level of contagiousness of this Delta variant,” he said.

The University of Holy Cross is undecided on its vaccination requirement, a spokesperson wrote to Eyewitness News in an email. That decision will be made in the coming weeks before classes start on August 23rd. Masks are now required on campus.