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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

MSU Urges But Does Not Mandate Students, Staff Wear Masks

Montana State University in Bozeman
Rachel Cramer
Montana State University in Bozeman

Montana Universities will begin fall classes later this month. Campus Presidents at University of Montana and Montana State University are requesting that masks be worn in indoor spaces, but have decided not to implement campus-wide mask mandates.

Earlier this week, Montana State University President Waded Cruzado sent a letter to students, faculty, staff and visitors urging them to wear masks in indoor spaces. The reason for her ask she explains, is to “keep classes in-person and on-campus by doing everything we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

University Spokesperson Michael Becker elaborates on Cruzado’s decision to encourage mask wearing, but not issue a mandate or requirement at this time.

“In choosing to avoid the terms mandate and to avoid a requirement we are appealing to people’s natures as helpers as acting together as part of a community,” Becker says.

The letter includes a set of guidelines for mask wearing. The university requests that individuals voluntarily wear masks in indoor public spaces without being asked to do so. Masks are recommended but not needed for instructors if they are at least 6’ from a class group. In rooms with 10 people or less if there is social distancing, a mask is also recommended, but not needed, according to the university.

The letter says the university’s stance on masking could change to a mandate if there is “rampant disregard” for wearing masks or if COVID-related hospitalizations in Gallatin County increase.

“We’ll be looking at the case counts reported by the city-county health department, whatever the current guidance will be from CDC. We’ll be looking at our own numbers of vaccinations that are going on on campus. We’ll be looking at the general situation on our campus to see where we are. All of those factors feed into decision making, but we’re not setting firm numbers for thresholds and that’s simply because this is a highly dynamic situation,” Becker says.

University officials will re-evaluate mask guidelines on or before Oct. 1. Becker says the campus community had good compliance around masking in the past and he hopes that will continue this school year. Classes begin August 25th.

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio. To see more, visit Yellowstone Public Radio.

Olivia Weitz
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