Emporia State students, employees, vendors and visitors will all be required to wear face coverings in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the coming academic year.
“Students will be coming back from a lot of different areas, some with higher incidents of community spread,” said Mary McDaniel Anschutz, director of the Student Wellness Center. “Anytime you have that mixing you run the risk of having a flair up of infection…we felt (the mask policy) was one of the best ways we could help protect the students for the semester.”
In past influenza seasons, Anschutz has encouraged wearing masks to limit infection.
“We can’t always identify who is the sick person to put the mask on so because of that we have to put the mask on everybody,” Anschutz said. “It’s really the same concept as influenza season expect we can’t identify who is sick and who is not.”
As the college prepares to reopen in the fall, Gwen Larson, director of marketing and media relations said the college has been working to make ESU branded face masks and self-assessment guides to deter coming to work sick.
“We are working to mail those to houses before they come to campus,” Larson said. “The packets will also have cards with self-assessment information on one side and health guidelines on the other so every day you can do the self-assessment.”
The assessment will include screening questions like having a temperature, having traveled to a high-risk area, any international travel or having been exposed to someone positive.
According to Larson, the campus policy requires all students, staff and even visitors to wear either their own masks or those that will be distributed in yet to be determined spots on campus. Employees have already been encouraged to limit in person meetings moving forward.
“There is a very detailed protocol outlined by the public health system,” Anschutz said. “If they live on campus, we do have a residence hall that is going to be kept offline specifically for isolation.”
According to Anschutz and Larson, the specific hall will be chosen once they have a better idea about enrollment needs.
“We have done hours and hours of planning and I can honestly say that every possible scenario has been discussed, we are not even close to being done planning,” Anschutz said. “...The university is being very intentional and strategic with the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty in mind. None of us want what happened in March to happen again.”
While most will be required to adhere to the policy, those with registered disabilities through the Student Accessibility and Support Services office may not be required to.
“Some of those reasons may be invisible, like COPD or another breathing impairment,” Larson said.
Those who qualify may also seek the same sort of accommodations to do remote work or seek a reasonable accommodation to continue working remotely.
“Most of the things that would qualify for (a mask exception) will probably qualify or need to seek an additional accommodation,” Anschutz said.
For more information about the campus return policy visit www.emporia.edu/covid-19-information/esu-fall-2020-return-campus/facemask-policy/.