Mandatory mask policy to begin at KU on Monday; masks to be required indoors for all
photo by: Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control
UPDATED 11:50 A.M. AUG. 6, 2021
The University of Kansas will begin requiring all individuals — regardless of vaccination status — to wear masks while indoors on campus.
Chancellor Douglas Girod made the announcement Friday morning in an online message to the university community. The new policy begins Monday.
“This mask mandate is an important and hopefully short-lived step that will enable us to prioritize health and safety while maintaining our commitment to a full on-campus experience for students this fall,” Girod said in the message.
Girod said the policy largely will mirror the mask-wearing policy that was in place last year at KU.
“We will have the same expectations and enforcement mechanisms that we had last year,” Girod said.
Major points of KU’s policy include:
• Students living in on-campus dormitories don’t have to wear masks while in their rooms, as long as outside visitors aren’t also in the room.
• Employees don’t have to wear a mask as long as they are alone in a self-contained office. Employees who are located in a cubicle, however, are required to wear a mask while at their desks.
• Student-athletes are not required to wear masks during games or practices.
— Masks may be temporarily removed by an individual “while actively instructing, performing, or presenting.” Social distance should be maintained during those times.
• Masks or face coverings must have elastic loops, ties or other means to hold them in place. Neck gaiters or face coverings with vents are not permitted under the KU policy.
• Violations of the mask policy could result in individuals being “excluded from campus, including not allowed to remain in a class, or subject to appropriate disciplinary action as an employee or as a student for violating the provisions of this policy.” KU has set up a website where people can report violations. It is unmasked.ku.edu.
KU’s decision to reinstate the mask policy comes after Kansas State, Wichita State, Missouri and several other universities have announced mask mandates in recent days.
It also comes as COVID cases in Douglas County continue to rise. Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health earlier this week introduced a new color coding system that puts the county in code yellow — the second of three tiers that measure the severity of the COVID environment.
But Douglas County has not yet issued a mask mandate for all of its residents, unlike some other nearby locations, including Wyandotte County where the University of Kansas Medical Center is located. Kansas City, Mo., also has a mask mandate in place.
Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health leaders have said they will start advocating for a countywide mask mandate if more than 50 new cases per day are being added in the community, using a 14-day rolling average. On Friday morning, the latest 14-day average posted by the health department was 26.5, but the average was increasing rapidly. For instance, in mid July, the 14-day average was 9.4 new cases per day. However, the latest average is still significantly below what the county was experiencing at the peak of the pandemic when nearly 82 cases per day were being added in late November.
The health department also would begin recommending a countywide mask mandate if the number of active cases in the community topped 1,000. As of Friday morning, the latest case numbers posted by the health department showed just less than 490 active cases.
A different measurement conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, already has Douglas County listed as a “hotspot,” although that is not the designation the CDC uses for the worst-hit counties.
The latest CDC map, which shows the COVID environment as of Wednesday, lists Douglas County as one of about six Kansas counties that have been designated as hotspots. However, the map also shows that three adjacent counties — Leavenworth, Shawnee and Franklin — are all “sustained hotspots,” which is a more severe designation the CDC gives counties that have higher rates of infection. About a dozen Kansas counties — with the largest concentration in southeast Kansas near the Missouri border — are listed as sustained hotspots.
The map below shows a breakdown by county. Green counties are considered “low or moderate burden counties,” where weekly case totals generally are growing by fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 people.
Pink counties are hotspots where where weekly case totals generally are growing by 100 new cases per 100,000 people. Red counties are sustained hotspots where weekly case totals generally are growing by more than 200 new cases per 100,000 people. Blue counties are sustained hot spots that now are seeing their weekly case numbers improve.
photo by: Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control