Face masks will once again be required indoors at the University of Kansas, Chancellor Douglas Girod announced Friday.
Citing guidance issued last week by the centers for disease control and prevention and the continuing spread of the more contagious COVID-19 delta variant, Girod said a mask mandate would once again be necessary indoors — regardless of one’s vaccination status.
“This mask mandate is an important and hopefully short-lived step that will enable us to prioritize health and safety while maintaining our commitment to a full on-campus experience for students this fall,” Girod said in a statement.
KU’s decision to again require that masks be worn indoors came after area schools such as Kansas State University, Wichita State University and all public universities in neighboring Missouri announced masks would be required on their campuses in the fall semester soon after the new CDC guidance was released.
As for vaccinations, Girod and KU have said since April that vaccines likely would not be mandatory for the fall semester — saying that it was generally difficult from a legal standpoint to require a vaccination that wasn’t fully approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. All three vaccines on the marketplace are safe, effective and went through a rigorous clinical trial process before being approved for emergency use.
Girod reiterated that viewpoint Friday, saying that Kansas law “limits” the university’s ability to require vaccines or proof of vaccination — though the chancellor, who is a medical doctor, again strongly encouraged anyone who is able to get the vaccine. He added that students can “expect additional information about incentives to complete vaccinations as we approach the fall semester.”
KU has not said which Kansas law makes such restrictions, and has not responded to requests for clarification. However, officials appear to be referring to a provision of the state budget bill passed in May which prohibited “vaccine passports” from being required to enter a state government building.
Public universities are considered state agencies since they receive government funding at both federal and state levels. It’s unclear, though, whether the budget provision applies to colleges and universities, or just agencies which preform governmental functions.
The Kansas Board of Regents, which governs KU and the other five public universities in Kansas, has not taken a public position on mandating either masks or vaccines, spokesman Matt Keith said in an email last week. Keith added that state universities are “governed by the Board of Regents, but are also state agencies subject to all applicable laws, regulations and executive orders.”
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