ATHENS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio University students could be masking up in the classroom once again this fall.
The university announced starting Monday masks will be required in all indoor buildings on their Athens campus. A statement from Ohio University reads: “The university’s mask policy is to follow the CDC community levels and since Athens County is currently a red community level we will implement required masking in all indoor spaces on our campus for at least next week. The CDC levels are updated every Thursday so we will reassess next week.”
Mae Miller-Likhethe is a college professor. She said she agrees with the change.
“I think as a faculty member I really value my own health and safety so everybody mask in the classroom really makes a lot of sense to me,” Miller-Likhethe said. “I know it can be inconvenient but for health measures it makes sense.”
Miller-Likhethe said she thinks the university is not only doing this to protect the students but also the people that work behind the scenes.
“Also, the people who are cleaning the buildings, who are preparing the food, those service level positions that often don’t have the healthcare benefits,” Miller-Likhethe said. “So, thinking about those folks that we might not see might also be a part of the conversation.”
Given Franklin County is also considered at high risk, we reached out to universities in the area to hear their plans. Representatives from The Ohio State University and Otterbein University both say masking will continue to be optional at this time.
A statement from Ohio State University: “The City of Columbus and Franklin County are currently recommending the use of masks in all indoor spaces and any crowded outdoor situations, regardless of vaccination status. This aligns with CDC guidelines for communities with “high” COVID-19 levels, based on case levels, hospital bed use and hospital admissions.”
“People can choose to wear a mask at Ohio State at any time,” OSU’s statement continues. “The university’s mask-optional policy remains in place on our academic campuses, including classroom buildings and the Ohio union. Masks are required in clinical health-care settings, child-care centers and COVID-19 testing locations. The Wexner Medical Center and student health services have enhanced their mask requirements to include all areas of clinical buildings.”
A statement from Otterbein University: “According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, Franklin County is now considered “orange” — an area with a high level of COVID-19 transmission. Due to this development, Franklin County Public Health (FCPH) has issued an advisory for individuals to wear masks indoors in public places and in crowded outdoor areas regardless of their vaccination status. This is not mandatory.”
“Based on the FCPH advisory, Otterbein encourages individuals to wear masks in shared spaces on campus and in crowded outdoor areas,” Otterbein’s statement continues. “This means that while masks remain optional for all individuals on campus, we encourage and strongly support those who choose to wear a mask or need to wear a mask due to health concerns. We will not tolerate discrimination against individuals for their choice to wear or not to wear a mask on campus.”
The spokesperson from Capital University tells NBC4 they have not made a decision at this point and will reassess closer to the start of class.
Some Columbus residents say the varied rules aren’t doing anything to stop the spread.
“It’s like I come here and it’s like yes it’s a suggestion we are in the red zone there are so many cases but nobody’s wearing the mask,” Terasia Bradford said. “It’s like you go into a store and even the people who work there aren’t wearing the mask.”
Others agree with masking if it protects their loved ones.
“As much as I love all this freedom we have been having, if it is going to help keep people safe I’m all for it,” Christin Landis said,
Since the transmission level is considered high in Franklin County we reached out to the officials at large events like the Ohio State Fair to see if they plan on implementing any mandates. They tell me for now masks will remain optional in indoor spaces as well and encourage those who feel more comfortable to wear them.