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Oakwood University makes masks mandatory, encourages vaccination and social distancing

Masks are mandatory for students and staff for the upcoming school year; other COVID safety precautions are in place as well.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Oakwood University has decided to make masks mandatory for students and staff this upcoming school year. 

This isn't the only COVID safety measure for the school. Students at Oakwood will be encouraged to get vaccinated and continue to social distance. Classrooms will be cleaned regularly and class sizes will be reduced. 

Students living on campus will also be required to get tested. 

Oakwood University president Leslie Pollard says this is the only way to slow the spread. "We've got a number of different people that we want keep safe. The best way to do that is to require masks, to require testing, and then of course to recommend vaccination. We are very strongly pro-vaccination."

The Alabama Department of Public Health on Monday issued COVID-19 recommendations to public K-12 schools, which include universal masking for students and staff regardless of vaccination status.

The more contagious delta variant is circulating statewide, driving new cases and hospitalizations, the department notes in the guidance, and at least 108 children in Alabama who contracted COVID-19 have had Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, a rare but serious condition associated with COVID-19.

“The best CDC strategies for students to remain in the classroom, even if exposed to a positive COVID-19 case, are the use of masks, spacing, and vaccinations,” the guidance reads. “For those students too young for vaccinations, consistent and correct mask use and three feet (six feet is better) of social distance in classrooms will help students to remain in the classroom, and mitigate the further spread of the COVID-19 virus and prevent outbreaks.”

“Implementing universal masking, spacing, and vaccinations (when age-appropriate) recommendations will allow more students to remain in school, more parents and grandparents to remain at work, and most importantly prevent an outbreak in the school that could spread to the community at large,” ADPH writes. 

ADPH’s recommendations for universal masking mirrors updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC updated its guidance after new data on the delta variant shows that viral loads carried by the vaccinated are as high as those carried by the unvaccinated, meaning the vaccinated can transmit the virus.