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UA faculty supports continuing mask use



FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Faculty at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville on Wednesday called for a campus face covering requirement to continue indoors until the release of new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recommends that people wear masks “in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people” as a way to help slow the spread of covid-19, according to its website. Masks must be worn at U.S. airports and on planes, trains and other public transportation.

UA’s faculty senate voted to support the “continuation” of a campus indoor mask requirement “until the CDC declares the wearing of face coverings in public buildings no longer necessary.”

The faculty voted 40-3 to pass the nonbinding resolution at a meeting held online, Stephen Caldwell, chairman of the faculty group, said in an email.

UA and other large universities in the state have kept in place on-campus face covering requirements, despite Gov. Asa Hutchinson on March 30 lifting a statewide mask mandate.

Joe Steinmetz, the university’s chancellor, last month in a statement expressed uncertainty about whether face coverings would be needed in the fall, while also saying that he expected classrooms to return to their “usual capacity.” The campus and others in the state still have physical distancing measures in place for classroom seating this academic year.

The CDC states on its website that masks are not a substitute for physical distancing. It also advises that it is “especially important” to wear masks when indoors “with people you do not live with and when you are unable to stay at least 6 feet apart.”

The faculty’s resolution notes that UA “may re-open its doors for face-to-face instruction without social-distancing measures.” It cites the possibility of new pandemic waves and the emergence of new variants of covid-19.

The University of Arkansas board of trustees in July approved a resolution calling for campuses in the UA System to require “at a minimum” face coverings in facilities where physical distancing could not be assured, and that such campus policies would remain in effect “as long as the use of cloth face coverings continues to be recommended by [state Department of Health] and the CDC and that the policies may be adjusted in accordance with future public health guidance.”