We have had a few questions about non-compliance with the classroom mask requirement, and we are sending this update to provide guidance to both faculty and students.
Please know that nobody wants the mask requirement. We understand the frustration and exhaustion that people are feeling about continuing COVID prevention efforts because we feel them too. Over much of the summer, all indications appeared to show that COVID was falling away. Case numbers were down and vaccinations were up. However, towards the end of the summer, the Delta variant got traction because a sizeable portion of our population had not been vaccinated.
This new spike is ravaging southern states. Across Florida, Louisiana and Texas, case numbers skyrocketed and ICU units were filled to capacity. This jeopardized the health of non-COVID patients as well as COVID patients.
Unfortunately, this COVID spike appears to be following a similar trajectory to last year when it started in the south and moved to the north in the autumn. You may remember that in October and November of last year, the Dakotas were a regular national news story because of our high COVID rates. We do not want a repeat of last year with the Delta variant, but just last week, the Forum ran a story indicating that:
Sanford Health’s projections for the delta-driven surge of the coronavirus suggest the building wave could place area hospitals under strains similar to those that overwhelmed medical centers in states like Louisiana and Florida.
NDSU must do its part to help prevent our area from being overwhelmed by COVID, particularly since there are parts of our community (kids under 12) who still cannot get vaccinated.
There are two key parts to our plans: (1) encourage vaccination; and (2) utilize masks in the classroom. If we all work together, we can mitigate this spike and get back to normal sooner. To that end, we are encouraging all students and employees to get vaccinated who are medically able to do so. NDSU is offering a $100 financial incentive for students who get vaccinated.
Regarding masks, NDSU’s mask requirement is limited to classes because classes tend to have high occupancy rates over extended time periods. By implementing this limited requirement, we balanced the very real need for human interaction with the mitigation effects of masking to protect both students and faculty members.
To reduce confusion for both students and faculty we have developed guidance regarding classroom management and masks, which can be found at the bottom of this email.
The most important take-away from these guidelines is that the classroom mask requirement will be enforced by NDSU. Masks are an effective and minimally intrusive tool for helping North Dakota mitigate the spread of COVID, and as a community, we need to take this step.
Remember, masks work best at preventing the wearer from spreading the virus. So by masking, you’re mostly protecting others, not yourself. This is why this is not just an individual health choice. It is critical that everybody participates.
Dr. Margaret Fitzgerald, Provost