Beginning on May 24, Missouri Southern will no longer enforce mask requirements on-campus for fully vaccinated students, faculty, and staff during the upcoming summer and fall semesters.
Southern administrators decided to loosen mask restrictions for vaccinated individuals based on updated information given by the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, which states that once you have been fully vaccinated, you are able to resume activities prior to COVID-19. These activities include not wearing face coverings or social distancing unless you are in a place where these practices are required.
Not all of Southern’s individuals are comfortable yet with the idea of going into the community mask-free, so anyone who feels safer to do so are encouraged to continue wearing masks. However, Southern urges unvaccinated individuals to continue wearing their face coverings to ensure safety guidelines are being met.
There are individuals in the community who are concerned about whether or not Southern will require documentation to prove students, faculty, and staff have been fully vaccinated. By not enforcing a mask mandate or proof of vaccination records, there is a risk of spreading the virus.
Missouri Southern President Dean Van Galen said to The Chart, “at this point, we have not committed to requiring documentation of vaccination. However, throughout the summer we will continue to track CDC guidance and best practices and continue to respond and adjust accordingly.”
With Phase One of the new contingency plan, in addition to encouraging but no longer requiring facial coverings for unvaccinated students, faculty, and staff, classes will continue face-to-face in the summer and fall semesters, providing distance learning opportunities if applicable to students who choose to pursue them.
In settings of mass gatherings including over 50 people, social distancing is recommended for outdoor events. However, with indoor mass gatherings, social distancing is recommended, and face coverings are required, but here hasn’t been any indication, however, if mask wearing during indoor events will be proactively enforced by the university.
Additional changes include external guests being allowed on Southern’s campus if they agree to comply with the guideline’s outlined by Southern’s modified Phase One of the contingency plan.
The contingency plan also said the Beimdiek Recreation Center will offer regular programing under a 75-percent capacity.
According to a press release, Van Galen said, “as we look toward the fall semester, we are excited to provide our students with an immersive academic and co-curricular experience that feels more normal.”
There is a concern about how loosening mask regulations may negatively impact Southern’s disabled community who may not qualify for COVID-19 vaccinations.
For students, faculty, and staff who are unable to get a COVID-19 vaccine due to health reasons, Southern announced that accommodations will be provided through the Disability Services Office of the Student Success Center or the Human Resources Office for employees.
Southern said they will continue to monitor trends and vaccination raters regarding COVID-19 throughout the summer and announced they have developed plans if the state’s risk level heightens.
“The collaboration and flexibility of our faculty, staff and students over the last 14 months has been inspiring,” said Van Galen in the press release. “Through our shared commitment, we kept our campus safe and continued our mission to educate and graduate knowledgeable, responsible, successful global citizens.”
Vaccination appointments are available at Southern and throughout the community free of cost for uninsured individuals. People who live in congregate housing are encouraged by Southern to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Southern encourages students to get their vaccine and wear face coverings if they choose not to, continue to maintain social distancing, practice cleanliness and good hygiene, and ultimately self-assess their symptoms and stay home if they’re feeling sick.