OU goes all in with new masking policy

By Michael Kinney

With college campuses less than two months away from opening back up to students, officials around the country have begun announcing new policies in regards to battling the spread of COVID-19.

One of the latest is the University of Oklahoma. It announced it new mask policy Thursday and it calls for all students to wear masks while on campus.

“All individuals in indoor University facilities must wear fabric or disposable surgical-style masks that cover their nose and mouth. Bandanas and scarves are not acceptable. Masks must be worn by all passengers in University-provided transportation, such as campus shuttles, buses, police safety escorts, and motor pool/leased vehicles,” the OU policy states. “Drivers must wear a mask when passengers are in the vehicle. Individuals may remove masks only if they are in their own enclosed private workspace with no one else present or in their dorm room.”

While the measures may seem drastic to some, OU’s chief COVID officer, Dr. Dale Bratzler, it is necessary at this time.

“We know that masks are one of the most effective interventions to prevent the person to person transmission of this particular virus,”  Bratzler told KFOR. “In studies, it’s shown to be up to 85 percent effective.”

According to officials, the new policy is mandatory for each OU campus for all students, employees, patients and visitors. 

“Students may remove masks when inside University facilities only when alone in an enclosed room,” the policy stated, “and while participating in activities in which a face mask cannot practically be worn, such as eating and drinking or playing a musical instrument or singing as part of an academic assignment. Students are not required to wear masks in their dorm rooms, but they are strongly encouraged to do so, particularly when others are present, unless they are participating in activities in which a face mask cannot practically be worn, such as eating and drinking, bathing, or sleeping.”

Oklahoma says it will make masks available to students. They may also provide their own masks that comply with this policy.

The university will make masks available to employees appropriate to their on-campus responsibilities. Masks used for daily wear are expected to last five days.

Oklahoma is still in the process of determining what its masking policy will be for athletics when it comes to fans.

The policy stated masking requirements for special events and athletic sporting events will be determined by the Chief COVID Officer and University administration before the date of the event and will be based on factors including location and size of the event, current COVID-19 data, and advice of public health and medical experts.

“That’s still under consideration. As we’ve talked about before, the risk of transmitting the virus is reduced in an outdoor setting compared to indoors,” Bratzler said. “However as you know, any time you get a large number of people together, particularly in a close setting, you can increase the risk of transmission of the virus.”

Student-athletes can voluntarily start returning to campus on July 1. Students will start moving into their dorms in early August.

In-person classes at the University of Oklahoma are set to begin August 24.

Story & Photos by Michael Kinney/Michael Kinney Media

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