University of Utah asks students to wear masks for fall semester

An undated photo of the University of Utah campus. Students will be asked to wear masks on campus this fall.

An undated photo of the University of Utah campus. Students will be asked to wear masks on campus this fall. (Jordan Allred, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah officials held a town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon to preview plans for the fall semester. Those plans involve students in classrooms, masks on faces, and (hopefully) mostly vaccinated people on campus.

University officials ask students to wear masks

The town hall-style meeting included remarks from new president Taylor Randall, and answers to questions submitted by concerned students, staff and the public.

"We are very much expecting to have an in-person experience this fall as mandated by state law," said Dan Reed, senior vice president for academic affairs.

Reed and other U. leaders said they intend to hold all classes in person, aside from those normally held online. That means students and teachers in classrooms, and doing away with hybrid courses. The school mentioned flexibility regarding these circumstances, but those would be made on a case-by-case basis.

With the quickly spreading COVID-19 delta variant, the U. is also asking everyone on campus to wear masks indoors and encouraging those who have not yet been vaccinated to get the shot.

The school can't require masks or vaccines (yet)

Under state law, the University of Utah cannot mandate masks as a state institution. Instead, they will encourage mask-wearing while respecting individual decisions whether to comply.

"The University of Utah cannot require masks, what we really want to be is 'mask friendly'," said Reed.

The U. is also unable to require vaccines for students, faculty or staff; however, that could change once the vaccines get full FDA approval.

"We as a state institution want to be very careful to follow state law," said Lori McDonald, vice president for student affairs. "That prohibits a state entity from requiring or mandating a vaccine while it's under this emergency use authorization."

Randall asked that every person on campus exercise compassion and understanding this semester. He emphasized the pandemic is temporary, but the relationships formed at the University of Utah are long term.

The U. is also putting a stronger focus on mental health this semester.

Nick Wyatt


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