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Open Letter: Higher education leaders call for mask mandate extension

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Editor's note: The leaders of Missouri State, Drury and Evangel universities, and Ozarks Technical Community College on Sept. 28 penned an open letter to Springfield Mayor Ken McClure and Springfield City Council.

Dear Mayor McClure and members of the Springfield City Council,

As the leaders of the four Springfield institutions of higher education - Missouri State University, Ozarks Technical Community College, Evangel University and Drury University - we ask you, the city of Springfield’s leadership, to renew the ordinance requiring the wearing of face coverings in public and group settings.

Our schools serve approximately 40,000 students and employees, and face coverings are essential for the safety and protection of our campuses and the larger Springfield community. The current ordinance has allowed the universities to focus attention on learning, working and living, all of which are essential to a healthy and vibrant college, and benefits Springfield and the surrounding area.

Our collective experiences have demonstrated that masking, along with physical distancing and personal hygiene, is effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19. Since the start of the current semester, all four schools have seen a steady decline in the number of COVID-19 cases. Many of our students have come to Springfield from other parts of the nation. As they have settled into our community and followed the current guidelines, the number of cases has continued to decline.

As you know, medical professionals, health officials and scientists continue to state that wearing face coverings is vitally important to help prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this to Congress this past week: “Face coverings are the most powerful public health tool the nation has against the coronavirus and might even provide better protection against it than a vaccine … we have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense.”

Regardless of the renewal of the current masking ordinance, we will continue to require face coverings on our four campuses. We realize that none of us live in a bubble and the safety of our community will be reduced if the ordinance is not renewed. We feel strongly that the masking ordinance is crucial to operate as safely and successfully as we have done to this point.

We are proud of our city and its leadership. You, Mr. Mayor and members of the Springfield City Council, Springfield-Greene County Health Department and the health care systems have served us well and protected our community. We are grateful for this. For the continued success in mitigating this deadly disease we ask that the current masking ordinance continue until health professionals say these practices are no longer needed.

Sincerely,

  • Clif Smart, president, Missouri State University
  • Carol Taylor, president, Evangel University
  • Hal Higdon, chancellor, Ozarks Technical Community College
  • Tim Cloyd, president, Drury University

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