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Are vaccine requirements on college campuses keeping cases down?

Duke University reported clusters among mostly vaccinated students, saying the pervasiveness of the delta variant is to blame.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Several colleges and universities in the Charlotte area and across North Carolina are requiring that students and staff get vaccinated against COVID-19. School has been back in session for a few weeks and the data on whether the requirement is helping to keep cases down is mixed.

Administrators at Johnson C. Smith University said it wasn’t the easiest decision to make, but one that had to be made. And for now, requiring students and staff to be vaccinated seems to be paying off.

“With COVID on the rise and to keep our students safe, we felt like requiring vaccination was the way to go,” Dr. Marian Jones, the director of student health services at JCSU, said.

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At JCSU, 80% of the student population and 90% of faculty and staff have shown proof of vaccination. The latest data shows there has only been one student and three staff members with positive COVID-19 cases in the first two full weeks of class.

RELATED: As new school year approaches, Johnson C. Smith University lays out COVID-19 rules on campus

“So far it's working. We just have to take it one day at a time, one student at a time and just go from there,” Jones said. “We're doing the best we can.”

Livingstone College, Clinton College, Johnson & Wales University and Lenoir-Rhyne University also required vaccination for the fall semester.

So did Duke University, but even with 98% of students and 92% of staff vaccinated, there have been clusters on campus. On Monday they announced in the last week, 304 undergraduates, 45 graduate students and 15 employees tested positive. All but eight were vaccinated and most of them are asymptomatic.

Duke now limiting some campus activities and requiring staff to get the shots by Oct. 1 or be fired.

RELATED: Duke University requiring COVID-19 vaccine for all employees

Back at JCSU, those who are unvaccinated will be tested each week. Last week, there wasn't a single positive test. School officials are still pushing vaccination and said some minds are being changed.

"Some of them that are exempt, the fact that they have to get tested every week, they're saying you know what, I think I’m going to get vaccinated because I can't get tested every week,” Jones said.

Both Duke University and JCSU will update their COVID-19 dashboards with the latest case numbers on Tuesday.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. 

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