OHIO— Colleges and universities are reopening campuses ahead of the 2021-22 school year, allowing students to forgo masks consistent with Ohio’s latest moves to relax restrictions.
What You Need To Know
- Some colleges have dropped COVID-19 requirements for masks and distancing
- Other universities are still monitoring pandemic metrics and finalizing plans
- Most Ohio schools are not requiring vaccination for the upcoming school year
Colleges and universities across the state are reacting to the improved outlook on the pandemic, preparing for a return by the fall to more in-person instruction and interaction.
However, the institutions caution the plans could change, citing the often unpredictable turns the COVID-19 pandemic has taken.
For most schools in the state, administrators are encouraging vaccination, but not requiring it.
Four of the more than 130 colleges and universities in Ohio have announced vaccine requirements for some or all of their students.
Two small liberal arts colleges, Ohio Wesleyan University and Kenyon College, are requiring vaccination for all students. At Mt. St. Joseph University and Cleveland State University, students living on campus will be required to show they have been vaccinated.
Some schools say they may institute a vaccine requirement when a coronavirus immunization is fully authorized by the federal government.
What could college campuses look like in the fall? Here's the latest on schools’ plans:
University officials announced Wednesday masks are no longer required for vaccinated people inside campus buildings at Ohio State.
The university said the exceptions are Wexner Medical Center facilities and public transportation.
For fully vaccinated people, masks are no longer required on Ohio State’s campuses except for in Wexner Medical Center facilities and on public transportation – in accordance with public health guidelines. Our updated guidelines: https://t.co/buNbD39xMK pic.twitter.com/vGvesDr0yU— Ohio State (@OhioState) June 9, 2021
In the announcement, campus officials said social distancing requirements would also be ending. The guidance states that those who are not vaccinated must wear masks indoors and practice social distancing at all times.
While the school is not requiring vaccination, immunization is strongly encouraged.
“Vaccines protect you and those around you, and a high vaccination rate will allow our campuses to more fully return to ‘normal’ activities,” the announcement said.
On Tuesday, Ohio University announced that fully vaccinated community members do need to participate in the school’s asymptomatic testing program.
Last week, the university lifted its outdoor mask mandate and social distancing requirement regardless of vaccination status, while encouraging unvaccinated individuals to take precautions outdoors. Ohio University continues to require universal masking and distancing indoors.
The school said there are no longer capacity restrictions on indoor or outdoor events as long as distancing is maintained inside.
"We are currently continuing with masks and distancing indoors, because we know that virus transmission most often occurs indoors. Additionally, our campuses include a high degree of interaction among individuals who come from many different places, and an outbreak can propagate quickly with possible spillover to local communities,” Ohio University officials said.
The university hopes to lift more COVID-19 restrictions as campus vaccination rates rise and cases hopefully continue to decline, “with a goal of removing all protocols when vaccination rates on our campuses are sufficiently high,” officials said.
Fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to go without masks indoors beginning June 15, according to the school’s latest reopening update.
Masks are still required for campus transportation including the schools’ shuttles.
Unvaccinated individuals are required to wear masks and keep distance in all situations, except when they are outside and distanced or alone in a room.
The university said it expects to exempt fully vaccinated individuals from testing and quarantine requirements.
Vaccinated individuals do not need to wear a mask indoors at Xavier University, a spokesperson said Wednesday.
University officials are considering an immunization requirement upon the Food and Drug Administration providing full authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Full FDA approval of the vaccine or additional guidance from the CDC or the state of Ohio may cause the University to decide to require the vaccine, so please get vaccinated now. The more vaccinated our community is, the better position we will be in this fall,” the school’s guidance reads.
The university is planning to resume 80% of its classes in person for the upcoming school year and to allow in-person events with no capacity restrictions.
“At this time, the COVID-19 vaccine is not required by the university, but it is highly encouraged to advance the health and safety of our employees, students, families and patients,” officials said.
For groups of fewer than 10 people, the university is no longer requiring face coverings indoors, according to Bowling Green’s most recent update.
Masks are not required indoors for fully vaccinated individuals if distancing can be maintained. Face coverings are not required outdoors for vaccinated people whether or not social distancing is possible.
“BGSU will not require its students, faculty or staff to get the COVID-19 vaccination,” a spokesperson said. “The university strongly encourages getting the vaccine, however, as it helps protect the campus community.”
Bowling Green is asking the campus community to carry a mask with them. Officials recommend that individuals put on a mask when they are interacting with someone within 6 feet who has chosen to wear a face covering.
The university said it is looking forward to offering more in-person instruction and activities in the fall, though summer learning options will not change.
Wright State University lifted its mask and distancing requirements for fully vaccinated people on Monday. In-person events and activities are expected to resume in the fall, President Sue Edwards said in the announcement.
“Please know that even vaccinated individuals may wish to continue wearing masks and practice physical distancing precautions,” Edwards said. “I ask everyone to be respectful of others’ choices and concerns as we move forward.”
Some schools are still monitoring the state of the pandemic and finalizing COVID-19 protocols for next school year.
A Kent State University spokesperson said they will announce updates to their plans soon, but the current policies, updated on May 24, include an indoor-only mask mandate and a requirement for 3 feet of distance.
For the fall, the university said the curriculum will “feature a strong return to in-person instruction,” while summer sessions will be a mix of in-person and remote learning. Fully vaccinated students living in residence halls will not be subject to a weekly testing requirement.
Case Western Reserve University’s plans are not yet available, officials said.
A spokesperson for Cuyahoga Community College said nothing has been decided yet. The administration wants to see how the situation evolves over the summer.
A mask mandate remains in effect, but the school said it is assessing faculty, staff and student “sentiment toward maintaining the current protocols.