Oklahoma universities update masking guidelines amid CDC change

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A person holds a mask while walking outside in Philadelphia, Friday, May 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A person holds a mask while walking outside in Philadelphia, Friday, May 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – As students prepare to head back to the classroom, doctors and medical experts continue to stress the importance of slowing the spread of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans who live in high COVID-19 transmission areas should mask up while indoors, regardless if they’ve been vaccinated or not.

Respiratory mask on desk in office, Protective medical mask with 2019-nCoV, Coronavirus protection concept.
“People cannot feel safe just because they’ve had the two doses. They still need to protect themselves,” said one WHO official. (Getty Images)

“This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.

According to the CDC’s website, nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties are in areas of high transmission, including most of Oklahoma.

“The Delta variant is highly contagious. A thousand to 1,200 times more virus in your respiratory track than with the original virus, so it spreads from person to person very easily,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler. “If we slow the transmission of the virus, there’ll be fewer mutations that result in these new variants.”

Oklahoma medical experts say they are encouraging Oklahomans to get vaccinated and follow CDC guidelines on masking.

A patient has her body temperature screened after showing her COVID-19 vaccine card
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

As students prepare to head back to class, doctors say they are concerned about the risk of COVID-19 spreading in schools across the country.

Now, several local universities say they will likely change their plans based on the new CDC guidelines.

In May, universities across the state lifted their masking requirements and distancing protocols as COVID-19 cases declined across the state.

On Wednesday, the University of Central Oklahoma says it is now encouraging vaccinated individuals to wear a mask in public indoor spaces.

“Consistent with revised CDC guidance, vaccinated individuals are recommended to wear a mask when in public indoor spaces in places where the COVID-19 virus transmission is considered substantial or high. Oklahoma County is currently listed as an area of high transmission by the CDC. The CDC further recommends that unvaccinated individuals continue to wear a mask when around others indoors, regardless of their area’s rate of transmission. Recent changes in Oklahoma state law prohibit implementation of a mask mandate for unvaccinated students,” the university said in a statement.

The University of Oklahoma says it will be updating its recommendations and protocols soon.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the University of Oklahoma has followed guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control, instituting safety protocols that aligned with the CDC’s guidelines. The university will be issuing updated recommendations and protocols for the fall 2021 semester soon,” the university said in a statement.

Oklahoma State University says that although state law prevents masking requirements, the university will encourage students to wear masks in public spaces.

“To reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, and in keeping with recently updated CDC guidance, OSU encourages the use of masks indoors in public, especially in situations in which social distancing is not possible and for activities with close contact with others. Masking is recommended by the CDC even if you are fully vaccinated. You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. At this time under Oklahoma law (EO 2021-16 and 70 O.S. 1210.189), we are not permitted to require the use of masks on campus,” the statement from OSU read.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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