Higher-education organizations urged state-government officials on Monday to allow colleges and universities more authority to protect their campuses from a Covid-19 surge.
“An increasing number of states have restricted the ability of colleges and other organizations to deploy an evidence-based combination of strategies to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks on campus and in surrounding communities,” read the statement, co-signed by over two dozen groups including the American Council on Education and the American College Health Association. ”These restrictions undermine the ability of all organizations, including colleges and universities, to operate safely and fully at a time of tremendous unpredictability.”
Statewide bans on vaccination requirements, restricted use of masking, and limitations on Covid-19 surveillance testing could put campuses at risk as crowds of students return for the fall semester and the more-transmissible Delta variant accounts for a majority of Covid-19 cases.
According to NPR, nine states have passed laws targeting the use of vaccine mandates. Other states have seen executive orders covering similar ground. Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, signed an executive order prohibiting the state’s public colleges from requiring students to be vaccinated, submit to Covid tests, or wear masks.
Meanwhile, more colleges are reinstating mask mandates or recommending masks be worn indoors:
- Kansas State University will require everyone to wear masks while indoors on university property, unless alone in their own private offices or workspaces, citing new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The University of Montana is recommending indoor masking in accordance with CDC guidelines, the university’s Covid Response Team said Friday. The mask recommendation will stay in effect until Missoula’s Covid risk level decreases.
- The University of Minnesota is reinstating its requirement that all students, staff, faculty, contractors, and campus visitors wear facial coverings while indoors, regardless of vaccination status, effective Tuesday, said a letter from the Office of the President.
- Ohio State University will require all students, faculty, staff, and visitors on its campuses and medical facilities to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status, said Kristina M. Johnson, the university’s president, in an email.
- The University of Tennessee at Knoxville cited the spread of the Delta variant when it updated its Covid guidelines on Monday. The university will require students, faculty, and staff to wear masks in classrooms, in labs, and for indoor academic events like student orientation.
And this university program is encouraging its staff to work remotely:
- The Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy has suspended the first phase of its return-to-campus plan, telling staff they no longer need to come to the campus in person unless their duties require it, according to a letter sent from Judith Kelley, the school’s dean.
Corrections (August 3, 2021, 5:36 p.m.): This article originally misstated the University of Montana’s mask policy. The university did not mandate that face coverings be worn indoors. It affirmed the CDC’s recommendation that masks be worn in places where Covid-19 rates are currently high, such as the college town of Missoula. The article also erred in saying that the dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy had told faculty members they would not need to come to campus initially unless their duties required it. A university representative said the policy applied to staff, not faculty. The article has been updated.