• Johannes Becht

No COVID-19 cases at SWOSU - Could masks still be required in Fall Semester 2021?

Updated: Jun 18

Photo illustration: Amine Goma (Unplash) / Johannes Becht
Photo illustration: Amine Goma (Unplash) / Johannes Becht

By Johannes Becht

News Editor

Since mid-February 2021, there are hardly any reported COVID-19 cases at SWOSU. Chart: Johannes Becht
Since mid-February 2021, there are hardly any reported COVID-19 cases at SWOSU. Chart: Johannes Becht

Good news: There are currently no reported active COVID-19 cases at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, as of Tuesday, April 20. This includes both the Weatherford and Sayre campus.

As of right now, SWOSU is planning on returning to "normal operations" in Fall Semester 2021. Will that include the elimination of the mask mandate that increasingly bothers students across campus?

"Southwestern Oklahoma State University looks forward to a dynamic and engaging return to more normal operations this 2021 fall semester," a SWOSU news release from April 8 said. Please be aware of the word "more." Unlike the headline of the release, the text itself does not promise a complete return to normal operations, just a return to more normal operations.

However, it is likely that the mandate could be lifted. COVID numbers are down (see chart) and more and more people get vaccinated.

“We will follow the recommendations of health officials and state authorities when it comes to safety protocols for Fall 2021,” President Randy Beutler said in the release. That includes recommendations of CDC. CDC currently recommends the use of face masks at colleges and universities, and it remains unclear when this will change.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said in March that lifting mask mandates was "risky business." According to him, there is always the risk of another surge.

Also, there is still the risk of new virus variants, that could make an updated vaccine shot necessary.

Brian Adler, SWOSU Vice President of Public Relations & Marketing, did not specify what "normal operations" means beyond what was described in the release (full, in-person instruction and activities, summer camps, etc.).

"As for masks, we will continue those until further notice," he said.

According to a source familiar with the matter, Food Services is likely to make changes, beginning Summer Semester 2021. For example, the salad bar in Duke's Diner is supposed to be open again in summer. In Fall, students might be able to get the food themselves again instead of having cafeteria staff putting it on their plates. However, there is no official announcement yet.

Adler: "Announcements will be made later about any changes at the cafeteria."

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