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UM board rejects mask mandates for start of spring semester

Students in Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City won't have to wear masks indoors and the schools are starting the semester in-person and on time.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The University of Missouri Board of Curators met Tuesday morning to discuss potential COVID-19 policy changes, as cases continue to rise across Missouri and the nation.

System President Mun Choi asked curators to consider two recommendations:

  • Masks required indoors for students, faculty and staff
  • Masks required in classrooms and student labs

The board rejected both recommendations in separate votes. If approved, the requirements would have lasted two weeks, according to KOMU.

Curators expressed skepticism that a mask requirement on campus would help slow the spread of the virus, noting that the city of Columbia and Boone County currently do not have mask mandates, according to Columbia media outlets.

“What’s the driving issue here?” Curator Greg Hoberock asked. “Are we trying to protect the health of all Columbia and Boone County, or keep our campus open?”

“We’re trying to keep the university open, but in the process of keeping the university open, we do believe it will reduce the number of transmissions within the community," Choi said.

The university will continue to recommend masks in indoor spaces. 

In-person classes at Mizzou start Tuesday, Jan. 18. A university spokesperson previously said schedule changes, like starting the semester online, are not anticipated. Nearby Stephens College and Columbia College both already announced they planned to start the spring semester with virtual learning.

There are 163 active student cases, according to Mizzou’s COVID-19 dashboard. There are an additional 19 faculty members, 66 MU staff members and five UM System staff members who have active COVID-19 cases. 

The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health dashboard showed 2,032 active cases as of Monday night. There were 106 new cases reported Monday involving those ages 18-22. 

The University of Missouri-St. Louis website states masks are still required on campus, which is in line with the St. Louis County mandate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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