The agency's recommendation states that, to reduce the risk of being infected with the delta variant and spreading it to others, vaccinated individuals should wear masks indoors in areas of substantial or high transmission. Areas of spread per county can be viewed on the CDC's COVID-19 Data Tracker.
The announcement comes during a difficult time for Oklahoma’s health infrastructure as — according to the July 11-17 Oklahoma State Department of Health’s weekly COVID-19 report — the delta variant makes up 45.3 percent of variant strains in Oklahoma. The seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in Cleveland county is, as of July 21, 32 cases, according to the New York Times.
A university spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Daily that the university will issue updated recommendations and protocols for the fall semester.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the University of Oklahoma has followed guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control, instituting safety protocols that aligned with the CDC’s guidelines,” the statement read.
SB 658, a bill authored by Sen. Rob Standridge and approved by Gov. Kevin Stitt, prevents Oklahoma universities from mandating vaccinations, requiring vaccine passports or implementing a mask mandate for students who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Michael Givel, a political science professor and president of OU’s AAUP chapter, said he is hopeful OU will alter its Phase IV Return Plan in response to the CDC recommendations.
“I would hope they change course immediately,” Givel said. “The delta variant is now considered in the red zone for Oklahoma, and we have an emergency going on. So I would hope that they move to protect faculty, students and staff.”
Givel said it’s imperative the university reinstitutes its campus-wide mask requirement with breakthrough COVID-19 infections on the rise.
“It is a necessity for public health that people wear masks,” Givel said.
The Daily reached out to the OU Faculty Senate, OU Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratlzer and Mayor Breea Clark for comment. This article will be updated with additional responses.