News Article: Campus COVID-19 Masking, Social Distancing Guidance Updated
May 21, 2021
The University of Arkansas is updating its COVID-19 Campus Guidance to align with recently updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control regarding masking and social distancing for vaccinated individuals.
Previously required for the entire campus community, masks and social distancing will become optional for fully vaccinated individuals effective Monday, May 24, with limited exceptions. Masks and social distancing will continue to be required for unvaccinated individuals at this time.
"Consistent with CDC guidance, those who are already fully vaccinated — at least 14 days from their final dose of COVID-19 vaccine — and not exhibiting any symptoms can now be present and engage in activities on campus without masking or social distancing," said Dr. Huda Sharaf, medical director of the Pat Walker Health Center and a member of both the university's COVID-19 Response Team and Communicable Diseases Outbreak Committee. "Of course, it's perfectly fine for those vaccinated individuals who aren't quite ready, to continue to wear masks and social distance when possible. That's an option, too."
While not mandatory, vaccination is strongly encouraged as soon as possible to help promote personal and community health.
"While we may not always know who has been vaccinated around us, it's those who remain unvaccinated who face heightened risk of infection, health complications and may contribute to the spread of COVID-19, so I encourage everyone who can to get vaccinated as soon possible," said Bart Hammig, professor and program coordinator of public health at the U of A, and member of the outbreak committee.
More than 5,000 U of A employees were vaccinated through opportunities coordinated by the university earlier this year. Others received vaccinations through other off-campus opportunities. In addition, more than 10,000 U of A students have also been vaccinated, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. While these numbers continue to increase, the university estimates at least 15,000 faculty, staff and students have already been vaccinated.
"The number of university community members who are vaccinated is likely much higher than 15,000 because we don't yet have information about how many employees were vaccinated through opportunities not provided by the university," said Matt Mills, U of A emergency manager and a member of the COVID-19 Response Team and outbreak committee. "We're working with ADH to determine that and will provide an update when available."
Limited exceptions regardless of vaccination status include:
- Razorback Transit
- All those on Razorback Transit buses or in the Union Station are still required to wear masks through Sept. 13 per Federal Transit Authority regulations.
- Pat Walker Health Center
- All staff, students and other visitors are required to wear masks and follow social distancing requirements at this time.
- Jean Tyson Child Development Center
- All staff, parents and other visitors are required to wear masks and follow social distancing guidance at this time.
Summer Camp guidance (for camps involving minors) is currently being reviewed and any updates will be communicated as soon as possible.
The updated mask and social distancing guidance is also incorporated into the university's COVID-19 Campus Guidance online.
John Thomas, manager of university communications