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News >  Higher education

UI announces mask mandate; WSU updates student vaccine requirement

Aug. 12, 2021 Updated Thu., Aug. 12, 2021 at 8:53 p.m.

Patrick Wilson, left, an associate professor of natural resource policy at the University of Idaho, taught class last February to students who wore masks and stayed socially distant.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Patrick Wilson, left, an associate professor of natural resource policy at the University of Idaho, taught class last February to students who wore masks and stayed socially distant. (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The University of Idaho is the latest of several schools across the state requiring people to wear masks indoors as COVID-19 cases surge again.

Meanwhile, Washington State University issued updated guidance concerning the school’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students, including the abolition of the personal exemption once any of the three vaccines with emergency use approval receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

UI’s requirement was announced Wednesday on the university’s COVID-19 webpage by President Scott Green and Torrey Lawrence, provost and executive vice president.

University leaders indicated the decision was based on several factors, including guidance from the university’s Board of Regents, recommendations from Idaho Public Health and COVID-19 caseloads. The fall semester starts Aug. 23.

The move comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked throughout parts of Idaho in the past month with the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending masking for fully vaccinated people in “areas of substantial or high transmission.” As of Thursday, the CDC classified counties across most of the state – including all of the Idaho Panhandle – as areas with a high community transmission level.

“We will continue to monitor the increase of the Delta variant in our state and will work with our partners to determine what is best for our institution throughout the fall semester,” Green and Lawrence said in the statement. “As always, we appreciate your patience as well as your efforts to protect one another.”

Boise State University and Idaho State University have also implemented mask mandates.

With UI’s mandate, masks are required in all university buildings effective immediately. University leaders said the requirement will be reevaluated every three weeks.

Classroom capacity, meanwhile, will remain at normal levels.

A directive from Gov. Brad Little has barred state colleges and universities from implementing a COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

UI, which has encouraged the university’s Vandals community to get vaccinated, will host a number of free vaccination clinics around the start of the fall semester. As part of UI’s vaccine incentive program, students who show proof of full vaccination will receive a $50 gift card to either the Vandal Store or Idaho Eats and will be entered into a drawing for $1,000 or $5,000 scholarship prizes.

WSU is requiring proof of vaccination for the fall semester for on-campus students, faculty and staff, with exemptions allowed for religious, medical and personal/philosophical reasons.

Personal/philosophical exemptions for students will no longer be accepted from students once the FDA provides full approval to any of the vaccines, according to a university announcement Thursday. Students who have a personal exemption would then have 45 days to provide proof of vaccination or file for a new medical or religious exemption.

The change does not apply to faculty or staff at this time.

As part of WSU’s masking policy, individuals inside a university facility must wear a mask if they are not fully vaccinated or if they decline to provide proof of vaccination.

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