FILE - Cleveland State University

(The Center Square) – At least one state university still plans to require COVID-19 vaccines despite a new law that prohibits Ohio public schools, colleges and universities from requiring the vaccine for students, faculty and staff.

Cleveland State announced its requirement that all students living in residences halls be vaccinated remains in effect for the fall semester. It also said, however, it plans to comply with the new law when it takes effect in October.

“We continue to strongly encourage all students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated,” the school said in a statement. “It’s the best way they can protect themselves, their family and our community. All three of the approved vaccines are safe, effective and readily available.”

Gov. Mike DeWine signed the law earlier this week. It also prohibits schools and universities from discriminating against nonvaccinated students, faculty or staff, and it does not affect private schools.

Because the bill did not include an emergency clause, it does not take effect for three months. There has been no word from other state colleges or universities about whether they plan to remove vaccine requirements for the fall semester or keep them in place until October.

Cleveland State offers medical and religious exemptions to the requirement.

The bill was introduced to help military families by allowing children to enroll in Ohio schools virtually before moving to a state base.

The Ohio Senate amended House Bill 244, which passed in late June along party lines, to prohibit public schools from requiring any vaccine not fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and from discriminating against unvaccinated individuals. The FDA approved COVID-19 vaccines on an emergency basis.

Democrats were disappointed DeWine signed it into law at a time when Ohio’s vaccination rate lags the rest of the nation and less than 50% of the state’s population has received at least one dose.

“I am disappointed by Governor DeWine’s decision to sign House Bill 244 into law. Public schools and universities in Ohio should be able to create policies to keep their students safe,” Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Cleveland, tweeted.

Opponents of the bill also argue the law limits public schools and colleges from implementing mitigation plans for unvaccinated students.

“This bill puts political self-interests ahead of good public policy,” said Rep. Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington. “With the arrival of the delta variant, this country is still in the midst of a dangerous pandemic and unvaccinated individuals are at higher risk. Public schools and universities deserve to have the flexibility to either require COVID-19 vaccines or establish mitigation procedures they deem appropriate for the circumstances in the communities.”

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.