The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
To mask, or not to mask? That is the question.
Monday, Oct. 25 marks the deadline for students, faculty and staff to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. If unable to do this by the scheduled time, registration for second semester will not be possible for students, and employees will be in jeopardy of losing their jobs.
This puts us in the unique position of knowing that our entire community, with the exception of exempted individuals, will be fully vaccinated by next spring.
So, the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not the university will continue to mandate masks indoors.
When our editorial board sat down to discuss this issue, we put it to a vote. We ended up seven to six in favor of ending the mask mandate starting next semester. However, after a long-winded debate over the topic, we ended up with a different answer:
There are so many factors to consider in this equation that our board was left with too many question marks to take a definitive stance.
With the town of Oxford’s own mandate ending on Dec. 13, it takes the certainty of a COVID safe community outside the realm of certainty.
Miami University is the largest employer in Butler county, and because of that, this decision will set a precedent for COVID culture throughout the region.
As we talked our way through the complexity of this topic, we tried to consider every sector of our community: vaccinated, unvaccinated, immunocompromised, professors, students and staff.
We don’t know what the right answer is, but we exhausted every point of logic we had as we debated the question ad nauseum.
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The university must do the same.
If you decide to get rid of masks, consider keeping them for the first two weeks to account for mass travel from students’ hometowns.
Maybe leave the question of masks in the classroom up to professor discretion, as older adults are more likely to suffer severe COVID symptoms.
Consider what to do with exempted students. There has been mention of continued COVID restrictions for this group, but will you follow through?
Before you decide, take into account potential breakthrough cases, continuous weekend travel and Butler County’s low vaccination rates.
We expect logical and thoughtful answers to all of the questions your decision will bring up. And the opinion of the community itself needs to be a part of that outcome.
An open forum with students, faculty and staff should be a step in this process. Whether it be online or in-person, there needs to be an effort to hear all voices.
Whatever the university decides will create a ripple effect.
So please, give it the consideration it deserves. Trust us, you’re going to need it.