Last week I presented a draft masking policy for you to review and asked you to send me your feedback.
I received considerable feedback. Some individuals believe the policy is too lenient. Others believe the policy is too strict.
In response to the feedback I received, we have implemented a change to the draft policy.
The policy you reviewed last week did not permit faculty to wear plastic shields instead of a mask when teaching. The policy now permits faculty to wear face shields provided they are able to maintain at least six feet of distance from all students.
As a result of the feedback, I have also asked our general counsel to prepare an alternative masking policy for the board to consider at their August meeting. This alternative would require masks to be worn more broadly throughout campus.
I will seek your input on this matter again at our next town hall meeting (set for 10 a.m. — noon Aug. 5). As I have promised, we will continue to update policy recommendations based on input and current conditions.
We have also completed our draft COVID-19 testing policy. This policy makes testing available on campus for individuals with coronavirus symptoms who have been assessed by a physician.
It also sets out a protocol for COVID-19 testing for certain campus arrivals and through random sampling.
To remove all financial barriers, faculty, staff and students will not be charged for COVID-19 testing administered by the university.
I encourage all of you to review the policy at your convenience and send me your feedback.
Facing this together
Last week you received an email from me about our decision to transition all future SOAR sessions to a virtual format. The email noted that several SOAR leaders recently tested positive following an off-campus gathering among themselves where masking was not observed. The majority of our SOAR leaders are now under quarantine.
I want to make something very clear: I do not blame our SOAR leaders. I appreciate their willingness to wear masks during our on-campus SOAR sessions, and I recognize the difficulty they (and all of our students) face in social distancing and wearing masks as they maneuver their lives on and off-campus.
As we approach the beginning of the fall semester, it is important for all of us to recognize that our students need a campus experience that involves social contact with others. We must do all that we can to provide this experience in a safe way that observes applicable health and safety protocols.
We must also recognize that students will inevitably socialize with one another off-campus, and we must be ready to adapt our operations to address virus spikes and outbreaks throughout the semester.
This situation is also an important reminder for all students, faculty and staff of how important it is to follow guidelines to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19. Wash your hands. Socially distance. Wear a mask.
If you feel sick, seek medical assistance and get tested. If you test positive or were in close contact with someone with COVID-19, follow instructions on isolation and quarantine.
Our ability to remain open for the semester and hopefully return to “normal” in the spring is going to be greatly impacted by everyone’s cooperation in masking.
Fall sports update
Last week I met virtually with the presidents and athletic directors of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) to discuss our plans for fall sports. The MVC universities collectively decided to play only conference games and to delay the start of play to Sept. 18 for all our fall sports except football.
Football is decided by a separate conference — the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC). Given the complexities surrounding football scheduling, the MVFC universities decided not to alter the football schedule at this time.
This decision will be re-evaluated closer to the start of football season in light of current information about the spread of the virus. We will coordinate with the NCAA and other football leagues.
Thanks for all you do for Missouri State!