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OU lifts COVID-19 masking policy for vaccinated individuals

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Seed Sower

The Seed Sower wearing a red OU mask on Sep. 11.

OU lifted its university-wide masking requirements and social distancing policies Wednesday, following the CDC’s recent guidance saying fully vaccinated people do not have to wear masks indoors. 

According to a university email, fully vaccinated individuals who are 12 years of age and older will no longer be required to wear a mask on the Norman, OU-Tulsa and OU Health Sciences campus or at any of the three campuses’ events. Unvaccinated individuals will be “strongly encouraged” to get vaccinated, and OU Health Services will continue to offer free vaccination opportunities

The new masking mandate does not apply to individuals in patient-facing settings, unvaccinated individuals inside OU facilities, two to 11-year-old guests inside OU facilities and individuals who ride on transit buses, as mandated by the Department of Transportation. OU Health Sciences Center's programs will further coordinate masking requirements with their hospitals and clinic partners when appropriate, according to the email. 

OU will also eliminate its social distancing protocols during the summer as in-person classes resume to their regular capacities during the fall. The protocols will remain in inpatient care and research participant settings. 

Third parties may resume hosting events in university facilities if they follow the above university protocols. The university will further recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone participating in events on OU property, as they make vaccinations freely available. 

OU President Joseph Harroz wrote in a university press release that the lifting of the masking requirement, social distancing guidelines and the availability of vaccines will prepare the university for a “more normal” academic year.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we at OU have followed guidance issued by the CDC, and we will continue to do so,” OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. wrote. “As we continue preparations for an academic year that feels much more normal, it’s a relief in many ways that the availability of vaccines, and our ability to provide them, allows us to lift our masking requirement and adjust our social distancing guidelines. This decision, like all of our COVID-19 protocols, was developed in close consultation with our medical and public health experts.” 

The university's decision was made in tandem with the Norman City Council, who lifted the city-wide masking ordinance during their May 18 special session with the guidance of OU Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler. Bratzler said he was encouraged by lower rates of the virus and higher vaccination rates in Oklahoma as the current COVID-19 case rate is three per 100,000 individuals per day and 32 percent of people are fully vaccinated. 

“The changes to OU’s masking and social distancing policies are based on a growing body of evidence that points to the effectiveness of the vaccines, as well as Oklahoma’s record low case counts of COVID-19,” Bratzler said during the meeting. “We will continue to proactively monitor the COVID-19 infection rate for unvaccinated individuals and are poised to make any needed shifts in policy.”

Marien López-Medina is an international student and United World Colleges alumna from Nicaragua. She is majoring in journalism and nonprofit organizational studies and works as summer news managing editor and fall assistant news editor.

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