University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents drops the previous mask mandate for fall 2021 but insists that masks still remain an important part of COVID-19 control on campus.
The University of West Georgia will no longer require students and faculty to wear masks inside of campus facilities for fall 2021 in accordance with a decision by the USG Board of Regents. According to Dr. Eric Heine, Medical Director of Health Services at UWG, this decision was made prior to the recent surge in coronavirus cases in Georgia. In prior semesters, USG had ruled that masks were a requirement to enter buildings on campus. The Board of Regents has not yet made a decision to reconstitute the mask mandate.
Despite the decision from UWG, university officials are still attempting to stress that masking up and getting vaccinated are still an important part of preventing the spread of the surging Delta variant.
“CDC and DPH guidance states that masks do play a role in the mitigation of transmission and until this pandemic is truly under control, it is recommended that they [masks] should be utilized to help prevent spread,”said Dr. Heine. “Per USG guidance, everyone is encouraged to wear a mask or face covering while inside campus facilities and all students, faculty, staff and visitors are urged to get vaccinated either on campus or with a local provider.”
This mask recommendation applies to everyone regardless of vaccination status, according to Dr. Heine. Newly released CDC data shows that vaccinated individuals carry similar viral loads as the unvaccinated when infected and can therefore easily spread the virus.
“It is the CDC and DPH’s recommendations that vaccinated individuals continue masking, especially indoors where social distancing is not feasible,” said Dr. Heine.
Mask wearing has been a particularly controversial topic in recent months in Georgia, as many are suffering from “pandemic fatigue” and frustration at the need to continue taking precautions. Despite these desires to return to a post-pandemic era, UWG is attempting to make it clear to students and faculty that the first step to a more normal university is to mask up in campus facilities in tandem with getting vaccinated.