Six public universities in South Dakota will no longer require their students and employees to wear protective masks beginning May 10.
According to the state Board of Regents (BOR) Executive Director Brian Maher, the decision was made in the hope of returning to normal campus operations this fall. However, he emphasized that administrators will continue to monitor the situation.
“Our system has continuously responded to changing circumstances caused by the pandemic,” Maher explained. “With vaccines now widely available, our institutions are eager to adjust as we look forward to the fall semester.”
The system-wide change will take effect at the University of South Dakota, Black Hill State University, Dakota State University, Northern State University, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT), and South Dakota State University.
Meanwhile, BOR Director of Communications Janelle Toman told The Journal that each public university in South Dakota has the authority to “adjust certain operational details for their institution.”
Doctor Recommends Continuing Mask Requirement
Vice President of Clinical Quality for Avera Medical Group, Dr. David Basel, believes that there is much less chance of contracting COVID-19 outdoors, even if people are not wearing face masks.
He stressed that in an indoor setting, however, it is still necessary to wear masks, even if people have been vaccinated.
“Because even though it reduces the chances something is going to happen, when you’re in indoor settings that risk is still there,” Basel stated. “It may not be as much as your own risk that you’re putting yourself at. You may get an asymptomatic case and then pass that on to somebody else in that building.”
‘A Lot of Excitement and Relief’
SDSMT President Jim Rankin said he has received much feedback about how “excited” people are with the change in protocol that the BOR will be implementing.
He even mentioned that there is “relief” that the state of South Dakota is already moving on to the next step after being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve talked about this internally that people can’t wait to be able to not have to wear a mask as they move forward,” Rankin stated.