Dear Red Wolves:
Our ASU System Board of Trustees voted this morning to empower ASU campus chancellors to make their own determination regarding the use of masks. Because of the deteriorating COVID-19 conditions in our county, I am implementing an on-campus mask mandate for the start of the Fall 2021 semester effective today, Thursday, Aug. 12. You can read the full text of our campus policy at the bottom of today’s message.
The essential details of this mask mandate are that (1) we will require masks in classroom settings and other confined spaces, (2) the protocol will remain in place until conditions improve in our county, and (3) as we have done throughout the pandemic, we are prioritizing the safety of our employees and students, followed by our strong desire to not transition to mostly-online instruction.
These indoor mask requirements are subject to change, and with significant improvement in our county and regional vaccination rate, active cases and hospitalization rates, and in consultation with city and county health officers, we will lift the requirement. Among the data points we will consider is the CDC’s Data Tracker. (Select "Arkansas" and "Craighead County" in the menu to see our local data.) When the level of community transmission for Craighead County is in the “High” category, the mask mandate will be in effect. Also today, to align with the current state of Arkansas health emergency declaration, I have formally reactivated our campus Emergency Operations Center (EOC) team.
A look at this week’s data from the CDC for our county shows that only 29% of Craighead County’s residents are fully vaccinated, and only 38.8% have received one dose. While our full-time faculty members have informed us that almost 80% are vaccinated, and when combined with all full-time employees almost two-thirds are vaccinated, we are concerned that large numbers of our students may not be vaccinated. We know that the majority of folks living in our community and region remain unvaccinated.
I am well aware of the concerns of individuals related to the COVID vaccines. But I also know that the statistics support that along with masking, aggressive hygiene, and distancing during times of high community transmission, the best tool we have in slowing and eventually controlling this virus is vaccination.
While some vaccinated individuals still contract coronavirus, the data clearly show that very few of those vaccinated get COVID, are admitted to a hospital, are placed on a ventilator, or die. Well over 90% of those who were hospitalized and/or died in Arkansas from COVID were not vaccinated.
I am grateful that student leaders who are concerned about the vaccination rate among their peers are beginning their own personal and organizational campaigns to encourage students to get vaccinated.
We have urged everyone to get fully vaccinated prior to the start of the semester, and more and more have reported to us that they have. The best time was at least four weeks ago, but the second best time to start is now, followed by when you arrive on campus.
Finally, there are third parties that require proof of vaccinations from our students and employees (e.g., hospitals and businesses where our students are placed for internships). A-State does not require the vaccine, but we are required to pass these particular kinds of requirements on to potential participants.
Vaccines Available On Campus
Our on-campus NYIT Student Health Center has both two-shot Pfizer and one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccines available. They’d prefer that you call ahead at (870) 972-2054 so you don’t have to wait when you arrive, but they are accepting walk-ups as well. Mornings from 9 a.m. until noon are the best times to get your shot, and with classes not starting until Tuesday this fall, you’ve got a great opportunity on Monday morning, Aug. 23, to get your shots. They are located in the same building as the St. Bernard’s Urgent Care facility at the corner of Red Wolf Boulevard and Alumni Drive – right next to Centennial Bank Stadium and the Embassy Suites.
Vaccines are also available all over Jonesboro, from local pharmacies, grocery stores, and healthcare providers including our two local hospitals. And if there is a demand, we are making plans to set up shot clinics early in the semester in Centennial Hall.
#MaskUp and #WolvesUp
Here is the official mask policy, which will be posted on our on-going Coronavirus FAQ page.
Effective Aug. 12, 2021, the following COVID protocol will be in force on the Arkansas State University campus.
During periods of higher active cases of COVID in our county (defined as “High Transmission” status by the CDC), Arkansas State will require the use of face coverings for indoor events where social distancing is not practical.
This includes any classroom space, hallway or entrance where six-foot social distancing is not practical, any indoor event where six-foot separation is not possible, any meetings where spacing is not practical, and in confined spaces such as elevators. At outdoor events, masking is recommended but not required. In classrooms and confined spaces, individuals are required to wear a face covering regardless of vaccination status. An exception can be made for instructors who are not required to wear face masks or coverings while lecturing if they are maintaining a safe distance of 12 feet from students. Otherwise, instructors are asked to wear face shields while in close proximity to students. Masks are recommended but not required for students in classes that are held outdoors or in rooms where social distancing for all students is possible.
Face coverings are not required inside individual residence areas. We ask that everyone be welcoming of those who choose to mask up at all times.
Face coverings are required for staff in situations similar to those of classrooms or meeting rooms, and in-person meetings should be converted to virtual meetings until the masking mandate is lifted (when possible). Employees are not required to wear masks in their individual offices.
The university reminds all on-campus organizations that the Arkansas Department of Health continues to have a list of recommended actions related to any indoor events. All on-campus events should be entered into the university’s Submit Event calendar, but especially any indoor special event to comply with ADH guidelines.
Students, faculty and staff are reminded that you are required to report your COVID status to the university. Along with reporting a positive COVID test, you should also report if you are exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID or your direct exposure to a positive COVID case.
In addition to masking indoors, Arkansas State also highly recommends individuals seek out one of the three approved vaccination regimens.