Masking Requirements Remain in Effect at OU
March 12, 2021
With new guidance issued this week from the CDC on masking after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s important to remember that OU’s university-wide masking policy will continue at least through the spring semester. Even if you have received the COVID-19 vaccine, or if you have recovered from the virus, you must adhere to OU’s masking requirements.
On all OU campuses, masks must be worn by employees, students, patients, and visitors when inside university facilities and vehicles, and when outdoors on campus when social distancing is not possible.
Read the full masking policy here.
Why is OU continuing the masking policy?
At OU, our medical and public health experts, including Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler, are constantly monitoring the data associated with COVID-19 pandemic and response and have carefully reviewed the full text of the CDC guidance. They shared the following reasons why OU will continue to subscribe to the masking policy at least through the spring semester:
- To reach herd immunity, vaccination rates must increase.
- The current vaccination rate in the state of Oklahoma is approximately 10%. The herd immunity threshold is closer to 70%. Even in small pockets of populations with high vaccination rates, it takes just one unvaccinated visitor to the area to present an immediate COVID-19 infection risk. We are still learning the extent to which vaccinated people may carry and spread the virus.
- Vaccine effectiveness against new viral variants is still being studied.
- There are many new strains of the virus, and the effectiveness of particular vaccines against each strain is unknown and untested at this point. We know there are some strains that respond to the vaccine and others that do not.
- Continued masking will prevent new COVID-19 cases and deaths.
- According to predictive modeling, at the current vaccination rate, removing masking requirements too soon will directly result in an increase of thousands of COVID-19 cases and hundreds COVID-related deaths in Oklahoma. Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, associate professor in OU’s Hudson College of Public Health, explains that continued masking buys us time to reach the herd immunity threshold in the safest way possible, which is by vaccinating members of our communities.
- Masking keeps us on the right track until we reach herd immunity.
- Masking is credited with the current downward trends in COVID-19 infections. To stop masking too soon would be to reverse the gains we have been enjoying.
OU is not currently mandating that students and employees be vaccinated or that they share their vaccination status with their manager, instructor, colleagues, or peers. Employees, students, and members of the public may be on campus and in campus facilities regardless of vaccine status, and we can’t exclude individuals from campus locations solely based on vaccine status.
- When in public, there’s no way to know if those around you are vaccinated.
- OU is not currently mandating that students and employees be vaccinated or that they share their vaccination status with their manager, instructor, colleagues, or peers. Employees, students, and members of the public may be on campus and in campus facilities regardless of vaccine status, and we can’t exclude individuals from campus locations solely based on vaccine status.
Why get vaccinated if we can’t take our masks off now?
- Vaccines greatly reduce our risk from having a severe case of COVID-19, including preventing hospitalization and death related to COVID-19 infection.
- Being fully vaccinated can reduce the quarantine time frame in certain circumstances.
- Proof of vaccination allows us to travel to certain countries without mandatory isolation periods upon arrival.
What other healthy behaviors should we continue practicing?
Even if you’re fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends you:
When might the OU masking policy change?
As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will look to our medical and public health experts for guidance on adopting or implementing COVID-19 safety protocols on our campuses, and we will communicate changes as they are made. We anticipate that these protocols will be revised in the coming months.
Thank you for continuing to protect our university.
We are (still) in this together.