Miami University loosens mandatory masking for students outside of classrooms, labs

OXFORD — As COVID-19 rates continue to decline, Miami University officials have announced it is dropping some of it mask requirements for students and staff.

Officials at Miami also cited earlier this week the city of Oxford’s recent relaxation of its mask policy in telling its students on the main campus — and at regional campuses in Hamilton and Middletown — of the policy change.

“Masks will only remain required in classrooms during instruction, laboratory or other research settings, and in healthcare settings,” according to a statement released by Miami officials.

“Masks are recommended in other indoor spaces, particularly if you or people you interact with are known to be immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness, or as a kindness if others request it of you,” said school officials.

The university, which is Butler County’s largest employer, previously had a mandatory mask policy for students and staff at all indoor settings excluding student residence halls.

As of Feb. 28 — the most recent update on Miami’s COVID-19 — there were four new student cases of virus infection and none among staffers.

Those figures are down significantly from recent months during the Omicron variant surge.

Among the reasons for loosening of mask requirements but keeping the protective facial coverings mandatory for classroom learning, said school officials, was “students and faculty have fewer opportunities to physically distance themselves in a classroom compared to other spaces across campus and in these settings, they are stationary for prolonged periods of time.”

Miami officials also urged students to take school-provided, at-home tests for virus testing as they depart later this month for spring break.

“With spring break just over two weeks away, now is the time to pick up at least two at-home antigen tests, one to use before you leave campus and another just before you return.”

Officials cautioned mandatory mask policies could be re-instated should another COVID-19 variant emerge with a corresponding high infection rate as exhibited by the Omicron strain of the virus.

“This decision is not permanent; we will adjust to changing conditions. We will continue to monitor the risk level in our community, and there may be times when we move back to the high-risk category and we will need to restore the mask requirement for a time.”

“Just as we put away our winter coats with a stretch of warm weather, we know that there are times we will need to get them out again if temperatures drop,” said officials. “Masks will be the same. Alternatively, we hope to reach a time when all requirements can be lifted.”

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