KU now recommending — not requiring — masks indoors
The University of Kansas wants students, faculty and staff to wear masks indoors on the KU campus, but it has stopped short of mandating that they do so.
The announcement comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance on masks on Tuesday, recommending that anyone over 2 years of age wear a mask indoors, even if fully vaccinated. Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health later that day also began urging people to wear masks again but did not create a new public health order mandating mask use. Following the health department’s announcement, the Lawrence public school district announced it was mandating masks in all of its facilities.
On Wednesday, Chancellor Douglas Girod told the Journal-World a mask mandate at KU was under consideration. Following those comments, KU sent out a campus announcement that it was recommending masks at this time. Girod’s comments indicated KU would continue to study the need for a mask mandate as the beginning of the fall semester approaches, with classes set to begin Aug. 23.
In the campuswide message, KU stressed that whether to wear a mask on the campus was still up to each individual.
“To be clear, this recommendation is just that — a recommendation,” Girod and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer wrote. “It is not a mandate, and individuals who choose not to follow this recommendation will not be in violation of any university policy at this time.
“Still, we strongly urge and hope that individuals will care for their own health and contribute to the health of others by adhering to this guidance.”
There are a couple of areas of campus where masks will continue to be required. Those include on public transportation and campus health care settings, such as the student health center.
KU also announced several vaccination clinics near the beginning of the fall semester. They include:
• Noon to 2 p.m. Aug. 21, Watkins Health Services building.
• 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Aug. 23 to 27, Level 4 of the Kansas Union.
• 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center.
The campus message did not include any announcements related to a change in testing policy for KU. Thus far, KU is not mandating that students be tested for COVID-19 before returning to campus. That is a break from KU’s past practice when it reopened the campus earlier in the pandemic.
Girod, on Tuesday, told the Journal-World that mandatory testing also would be evaluated by the university’s pandemic advisory board.
The university is continuing to urge students to voluntarily upload proof-of-vaccination forms to the online patient portal run by KU’s student health center. KU hasn’t spelled out how those forms will be used, but leaders have indicated they may be used to exempt some students from having to go into isolation if they are deemed to have been a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
KU, however, can’t mandate that students provide proof of vaccination. State law prohibits state universities and other state agencies from requiring people to produce a “vaccine passport” in order to receive services.