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Masks are optional at MSU buildings starting Feb. 22.
SBJ file
Masks are optional at MSU buildings starting Feb. 22.

Mask mandates come to an end at area universities

Posted online

Three of Springfield's higher-education institutions are doing away with some face mask requirements.

Drury and Missouri State universities, as well as Ozarks Technical Community College, late last week announced mask-optional policies set to take effect this week.

"This decision was not made lightly, but rather under the guidance and consultation of the Springfield- Greene County Health Department and in coordination with area higher educational institutions,” said Tim Cloyd, Drury president, in a news release.

At Drury, officials are supporting continued masking for students and staff who choose that option. Masking is recommended for students feeling ill or in the 10 days following a positive COVID-19 test result.

It's a similar story at OTC, where masks for employees and students become optional starting tomorrow. The only exception is the Lewis Family Early Childhood Education Center, according to an email sent to students and faculty and provided to Springfield Business Journal.

"OTC may bring back the mask requirement if there is a dramatic rise in cases, but, hopefully, COVID-19 infections will continue to decrease in number and severity. If you have not done so, please get vaccinated or boosted if you are eligible," officials said in the email.

Masks become optional after the Presidents' Day holiday at MSU, with exceptions at campus clinics and its Bear Line transportation service, according to the university's masking policy on its website.

The decision from MSU was met with praise from legislators, including state Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield.

"This is the right decision and a step in the right direction to help classrooms return to a sense of normalcy. This policy change is also in line with most other higher education institutions in the state," he said in a statement. "“After hearing from numerous constituents about this issue, I felt it was necessary to call on MSU to lift the mask mandate. I am thankful MSU leadership listened to their voices and concerns, as well as considered the recent decline in COVID-19 cases when making this decision."

The local Health Department's COVID-19 dashboard shows a seven-day average of daily cases of 99, with 161 patients in Greene County hospitals as of Friday. Roughly 53.4% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

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