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Cutler Hall on Ohio University's campus in Athens, Ohio. (FILE)

OU to require masks inside indoor spaces on campus starting Thursday

Ohio University announced Wednesday it will require individuals to wear masks indoors in public and shared spaces on its campuses, regardless of vaccination status, effective Aug. 5. 

This announcement comes as COVID-19 transmission rates across Ohio and the country are shifting, in large part due to the Delta variant. OU’s decision is also consistent with the decisions of several peer institutions in Ohio, according to a university-wide email from OU President Hugh Sherman. 

On June 16, OU announced individuals on its campus who are vaccinated would no longer be required to wear masks indoors or physically distance in non-classroom settings. According to a previous Post report, this decision was made following an announcement that masks do not need to be worn indoors by fully-vaccinated individuals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. 

OU’s decision also follows current CDC guidelines. According to its website, the CDC currently recommends vaccinated individuals wear masks inside public areas of substantial or high transmission and unvaccinated individuals get vaccinated and wear a mask in all public indoor settings. 

In the email, Sherman said there may be circumstances in which the university will also require masking for all individuals outdoors, regardless of vaccination status. 

Due to a bill recently signed by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, OU is not permitted to require students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus in the fall. 

However, OU will also now require asymptomatic testing upon arrival for all its residential students. Decisions regarding the frequency of asymptomatic testing during the semester have not yet been announced. 

“Testing all students upon arrival is our best opportunity to identify infected individuals and curb a potential outbreak,” Sherman said in the email. “Knowing how many of our community members are vaccinated will help us make decisions including asymptomatic testing frequency and when it might be possible to again ease our masking requirements.”

According to the email, only about 45% of the OU campus community has registered their vaccine though the Testing Pathway Program. Sherman said vaccination is the best means by which students can contribute to a safe campus environment. 

Students, faculty and staff are required to select a testing pathway by Aug. 10. 


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