COLUMBIA, MO. — Students attending University of Missouri System schools will be required to wear masks in classrooms for another month but it is offering some exemptions for those who are vaccinated.
Since the end of July, the four schools, University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), University of Missouri (Mizzou) and Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) have required students and faculty to wear masks in classrooms and indoors when social distancing is not possible regardless of vaccination status.
The board voted 5-4 Monday afternoon to extend that policy on UM campuses through Oct. 15. Those vaccinated do get exemptions though by not being required to wear a mask at voluntary athletic or social events, no matter if they are indoors or out.
Proof of vaccination is not required, instead, the board said it’s based on the honor system.
“A majority of our board believed in providing this extension allows a bit more time to ensure our case rates remain low, our students continue enjoying in-person instruction and activities, and that we support the needs of our health facilities,” chair of the Board of Curators Darryl Chatman said.
The four schools started classes nearly a month and between all of them, there are 90 total cases. As of Monday, these are the number of active cases on the UM campuses:
- Mizzou: 41 student, 14 faculty and staff
- UMKC: 13 student, 4 faculty and staff
- UMSL: 13 student, 2 faculty and staff
- MUS&T: 5 student, 3 faculty and staff
University of Missouri President Mun Chio told the board all four of the universities are in “high risk” transmission counties, according to the CDC.
He went on to say the three SEC schools that do not require masks, Texas A&M, University of Georgia, and the University of Florida are reporting hundreds of cases.
Some Mizzou students said Monday, the current mask policy needs to stay in place.
“I’ve had multiple students I’ve known recently who have gotten COVID who have been break-through cases who have been vaccinated, so it’s definitely happening on campus,” Mizzou law student Sarah Jolley said. “I think there is still a lot to be worried about.”
Jolley is from Columbia and said even though she’s vaccinated, she’s concerned about passing it along to someone immunocompromised.
“I think it should honestly continue through the semester,” Jolley said. “It’s only going to get colder, and I think we know the virus spreads at faster rates when we are all cooped up inside. I think it would probably be wisest to keep that mandate in place all semester and then see where we are at in the spring.”
Janee Compton is a freshman sociology major from Chicago. She said she wasn’t shocked she was going to have to wear mask inside the classroom during her first semester of college.
“We should keep the mask mandate only because in a lot of my classes, I’m hearing a lot of coughing and a lot of sneezing and sniffling,” Compton said. “Even if it’s not COVID, we don’t want to spread those diseases.”
Even though masks are not required for those vaccinated in residence halls or dining areas, Compton said she wears one.
“I don’t know if they are sick or stuff like that, so I just keep my mask on to keep myself safe,” Compton said.
While other students said masks aren’t needed on campus with the low number of cases.
“We’ve had really minimal cases of students getting COVID here at Mizzou, so I think we need to look into maybe getting away from masks because there are super low cases, hasn’t really been a problem,” senior mechanical engineer student Pavel Buechter said.
The Washington, Missouri native says he does feel safe and thinks people are abiding by the mask rules in the classroom.
“People go along with it because you know if we go with it, eventually it will be over and we will be with no masks, so it’s been fine,” Buechter said. “Hopefully, if they do extend it, it doesn’t reach into next semester. Hopefully, this is the last semester we really have to worry about it.”
Choi told the board MU Health Care is at 100% capacity in the ICU because of COVID patients, which is impacting other types of care.
Vaccines are not required at any of the universities but there are incentive programs.
Between the four universities, nearly 15,000 students have voluntarily uploaded their vaccination status.
- Mizzou: 6,670 students (25% of on-campus students)
- UMKC: 3,122 students (26% of total students)
- UMSL: 1,284 students (14% on-campus and online students)
- MUS&T: 3,875 students (60% on-campus students)
This new policy is in place until Oct. 15 when the board will meet again to decide what’s next.