Arkansas State University Chancellor Kelly Damphousse on Thursday instituted an indoors mask policy, effective immediately for the Jonesboro campus. The move comes two days after the University of Central Arkansas in Conway made a similar move regarding indoor masks.
ASU’s Jonesboro campus will require the use of face coverings for any indoor events, as well as in classrooms, hallways and any other confined spaces where adequate social distancing is not possible, regardless of vaccination status.
“The essential details of this mask mandate are that we will require masks indoors for classroom settings and any otherconfined spaces. The protocol will remain in place until conditions improve in our county, and as we have done throughout the pandemic, we are prioritizing the safety of our students and employees, followed by our strong desire to not transition to mostly-online instruction,” Damphousse said in an email sent to the ASU community announcing the new policy.
Damphousse further stated that any adjustments to the mask requirement will depend on several factors including health data provided by the CDC’s Data Tracker.
UCA President Houston Davis cited increased COVID cases in Conway as reasoning for putting the indoor mask policy in place.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that a combination of higher vaccination rates and masking in indoor settings will be necessary to manage the heightened virus spread and ensure that we have a normal and engaged start to our fall semester,” he wrote to UCA students, faculty and staff. “If we want to have a stable and normal pattern to our fall semester, we must work together and take steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 — including encouraging vaccines and having periods of required masking in indoor settings.”
Face coverings at ASU schools are not required inside individual residence areas, and in-person meetings should be converted to virtual meetings until the masking mandate is lifted, when possible, officials said. Employees are also not required to wear masks in their individual offices.
ASU System President Chuck Welch told trustees during a teleconference meeting that all system chancellors, pending action by the board, would immediately institute mandatory face covering policies indoors. Each ASU System campus has developed plans and strategies to address the pandemic based on applicable state and federal guidance, he said.
ASU System member institutions include the Jonesboro campus, Arkansas State University-Beebe, Arkansas State University-Mountain Home, Arkansas State University-Newport, Arkansas State University Mid-South, Arkansas State University Three Rivers and Henderson State University.
Despite the mask requirement for indoor spaces, ASU’s mask policy states that masking is recommended but not required at outdoor events. This is important to note for those attending Friday’s summer commencement ceremony at Centennial Bank Stadium.