The Colorado State University (CSU) System will not require COVID-19 vaccines for the upcoming school year, but will allow its campuses - which includes the CSU campus in Fort Collins - to make their own decisions on vaccine requirements.

The CSU System announced on Thursday (Aug. 5) that it will not take that step until at least one vaccine receives full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

According to reports via the Coloradoan, CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank recommended to the board of governors on Thursday that the system not reverse its mandate that requires full FDA approval, but rather "give the campuses the ability to go beyond that recommendation, in order to comply with recommendations and local public health officials."

"This will follow the current federal approach and the current state approach of arguing that the best decisions are going to be made locally, where there's a better understanding of the infection rates, hospitalization rates, ICU bed usage and a whole series of factors," Frank said.

Back in April, the CSU system announced that the Colorado State University Fort Collins and Pueblo campuses would require COVID-19 vaccinations for faculty, staff, and students for the Fall 2021 semester; that requirement was "conditioned upon full approval of one or more vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration".

Frank said that when the mandate was approved back in April, "I think most of us assumed that a lifting would be sometime over the summer in advance of the start of the [fall] semester."

Because full FDA approval has yet to been given to any of the COVID-19 vaccines, the decision about whether to require vaccines "has been made complicated" by the delta variant and changing guidelines, according to Frank.

Frank and Jason Johnson, general counsel for the CSU System, both reminded the board on Thursday that there are no legal issues with requiring the vaccine before it receives approval - in regards to giving each campus the authority to decide whether a not a vaccine mandate will be put in place.

"It's not a debate about whether or not it's legal; it's a debate about whether or not you want to mandate it across all of your campuses," Frank said.

Now, the decision to instate a vaccine mandate lies in the hands of CSU President Joyce McConnell and her leadership team, who are all facing pressure from campus faculty and staff:

Earlier this week, over 200+ CSU employees signed a letter sent to the administration asking for the university to immediately require vaccines and masks on campus, citing the delta variant and health concerns. By Thursday (Aug. 5), the letter had more than 210 signatures, according to the Coloradoan.

“We are a group of faculty and staff members who are very concerned about the lack of a comprehensive requirement for the COVID-19 vaccination and masking ahead of classes starting this fall,” the letter stated, which was sent Tuesday by Daniela Cusack, an associate professor of ecosystem science and sustainability.

In an email sent to the CSU community earlier this week, campus officials said they are working closely with the Larimer County health department and hope to provide an update on safety protocols by "early next week."

CSU President McConnell did not respond to the vaccination update during her campus update in the board of governors meeting on Thursday, but did tell counsel when asked if she needed to go into executive session to discuss it, that she felt the directive from Frank "gives us the direction we need."

For more information regarding vaccine and mask mandates on CSU's campuses, csusystem.edu.

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