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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

University of Idaho extends mask mandate

By Angela Palermo Moscow-Pullman Daily News

The University of Idaho is continuing its mask requirement into the spring semester to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in response to the anticipated surge of the omicron variant.

In an email to students, faculty and staff Monday evening, UI President Scott Green said the university is working with local health agencies including Gritman Medical Center and Public Health – Idaho North Central District to monitor impact within the community.

“Unfortunately, the omicron variant of COVID-19 is causing us to reevaluate how we thought we would enter the spring semester,” Green stated in the email. “Because of omicron’s high transmission, we will begin the semester with the same safety protocols that were in place in the fall.”

Public Health – Idaho North Central District reported nine new COVID-19 cases in Latah County on Tuesday after seeing 27 additional cases the day before.

In neighboring Whitman County, where Washington State University students will soon return after the winter break, local health agencies reported 61 new cases and 17 additional hospitalizations related to COVID-19 on Tuesday following the holiday weekend.

“While you may feel as frustrated by the setback of the omicron variant as we are, we ask for your patience as we work to keep our campus healthy and offer live instruction,” Green stated. “We expect to have more details after our consultations with Idaho Public Health and Gritman Medical Center scheduled for later this week.”

The face covering requirement applies to all university offices, buildings and common areas on the Moscow campus. Masks can be removed in shared office workspaces where more than six feet of distancing can be maintained and within private residential rooms in the dormitories.

While the university previously evaluated the policy every three weeks, it decided in late November to instead reassess the face covering requirement on a weekly basis.

At-home COVID-19 tests will again be available starting today for individuals who are symptomatic. The tests can be picked up for free with a Vandal Card from noon to 2 p.m. weekdays at the east entrance of UI’s Student Recreation Center.

Vaccine clinics on the Moscow campus are also scheduled to begin next week.

“While it is impossible to guess what will happen next, we will continue to watch, work with our partners and strive to provide the quality education for which we are known,” Green stated in the email.