Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Southeast students react to temporary mask mandate and vaccination incentive

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

At freshman orientation Aug. 20, Vargas announced a plan to get the majority of Southeast students vaccinated. An email was sent to Southeast students Aug. 26 publicly announcing the plan, which includes giving Southeast students and faculty a full week off from classes for Thanksgiving break if 70% of students are vaccinated by Nov. 1. Fully-vaccinated students who submit proof of vaccination will be entered into a drawing to win cash prizes.

Students who have not yet been fully vaccinated can receive a $25 Redbucks account credit or a $25 Southeast Bookstore gift card if they get either a first or second dose of the vaccination between Aug. 26 and Oct. 1 at a vaccination clinic on the Southeast campus. A planned vaccination clinic will take place on Sept. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Towers Complex.

Before the spring semester of 2020 ended, Southeast announced there would be no mask mandates during the 2021 school year. However, on Aug. 16, Southeast President Dr. Carlos Vargas sent an email to all students stating, “Effective Tuesday, August 17, the University is instituting a temporary face covering requirement indoors in all University buildings, regardless of vaccination status.”

According to the Protect the Nest plan, the face covering requirement will be in place until Sept. 16, when it will be re-evaluated.

Since mask mandates have been in place since the 2020-2021 school year, many of the students at Southeast have had to wear masks in certain areas before, such as classrooms and the dorms on campus. With cases becoming less frequent during the spring semester, the mandate was initially revoked for the fall semester. However, as cases started rising again and a COVID-19 variant was discovered, the temporary mask mandate was put into place.

Sophomore philosophy major Erica Stewart has had experience in mask mandates and has become used to wearing masks indoors. Stewart believes the best way to handle the pandemic is for all students and faculty to work together.

“I’m personally pro-mask if you aren’t vaccinated. I know it’s a choice, but I believe that everyone should get vaccinated, unless it’s a health concern. I also think it’s only going to work if everyone’s doing it,” Stewart said.

Freshman sports management Dylan Hawes was at orientation when the plan to have students vaccinated was first announced. Hawes believed it was a good way to encourage students to get vaccinated who haven’t already gotten the vaccine.

“I definitely think it’s a good incentive. A lot of people would get vaccinated for that. I think if enough people get vaccinated, the mandate could be lifted, but if cases keep rising, I doubt it will be gone before the end of the semester.”

Sophomore art major Kai Sooman was one of the students who understood the mandate but was not happy about it. While she continues to follow the temporary mask mandates, she questions the reasoning for in-person classes.

“I’m glad it’s not as strict as last year. But, it almost sounds like it’s always up in the air and brought up only when it’s convenient,” Sooman said. “They’re making us social distance, but they’re not letting us go as far as to take Zoom classes.”

While it is preferred for masks to be worn inside as much as possible, there are limited exceptions. This includes while eating or drinking at the dining halls on campus; while in residence halls, rooms and floors, excluding elevators and common areas; and if someone is alone in a room or office. According to the Southeast website, 15,410 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered at community vaccination events hosted at the Show Me Center and Student Recreation Center on Southeast’s campus.

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