USD to require face coverings this fall semester

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VERMILLION, S.D. (KCAU) – The University of South Dakota (USD) will require face coverings in all of its public indoor spaces on campus when the fall academic term starts on August 19.

The new protocol is applied to students, faculty, staff, and visitors and a part of a tiered approach to the face covering requirements.

It has been adopted by the South Dakota Board of Regents (SDBOR) for the state’s six public universities.

Face coverings may include a mask, bandana, shield, or any other covering that covers the nose and mouth.

“USD strongly supports wearing face coverings as a practical way to reduce the transmission of COVID-19,” said USD President Sheila K. Gestring. “In addition to maintaining physical distancing and washing your hands, wearing a face covering is one of the most significant steps we can take to help protect others and ourselves. We are grateful for the Board of Regents’ action, which offers universities the flexibility to act quickly to adjust campus operations, should it become necessary due to the fluid nature of the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement was made on Wednesday by the South Dakota Board of Regents (SDBOR).

The regent created a new framework under which the board and its universities are positioned to react quickly to adjust campus operations whenever necessary.

Brian Maher, SDBOR Executive Director and CEO, characterized it as “responding in a practical way to the changing COVID-19 landscape at campuses and within their respective communities.”

The board’s protocol provides for four differentiated levels of response:

  • Level 1: requires face coverings in all classroom or lab settings where course delivery requires close proximity or physical contact and makes the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations on physical distancing impractical. Examples are instructional laboratories, clinical training environments, and design or art studio instruction.
  • Level 2: requires face coverings in all public areas of academic buildings on campus (including classrooms, hallways, and common areas), along with other indoor areas where 30 or more individuals frequently congregate or interact in a setting not conducive to maintaining CDC-recommended physical distancing.
  • Level 3: requires face coverings in all public indoor spaces on campus.
  • Level 4: requires face coverings in all public indoor and outdoor areas of campus.

To begin the fall semester operations on the campuses, the regent has agreed to require face covering in all public indoor spaces on campus, which is level 3.

Officials add the action will be reviewed 30 days after the start of the fall academic term.

The university mentions that significant community spread of the coronavirus in certain areas of the state or other special circumstances may result in an individual campus or location operating at a different level within the tiered framework from other institutions.

“We know this fall will look a little different for our community members,” said Gestring. “But we’re confident that we can deliver a true USD experience that meets students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.”

“Our task force leaders and medical experts have been tirelessly developing plans and resources for our students, from reassessing classroom arrangements to implementing new sanitation procedures to reimagining student programming. We are ready for our students to bring their energy and joy back to campus, and we will continue to prioritize providing a high-quality education in an environment that emphasizes the health and safety of our community,” adds Gestring.

The board mentions that the pandemic planning is continuing on all campuses in the state.

For more information about USD’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to read the university’s case management plan, click here.

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