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Mandatory indoor mask policy to be lifted at SD public universities

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 7:09 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Starting May 10th, masks will no longer be mandatory indoors at South Dakota Board of Regents campuses. The institutions had required masks to be worn indoors all year, at Level 3 of it’s COVID tier system. The change moves away from the tiered system.

“With a lot of grit, with a lot of perseverance, we were able to get through this. Not unscathed by any means. But we were able to get through this pandemic.” said South Dakota Board of Regents Executive Director and CEO Brian Maher.

Maher said the board is able to do this because of the work put in by universities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. At no point during the year did any institution move to Level 4 of the system: requiring masks to be worn both indoors and outdoors. And for those institutions, it’s a reward for the work put in by everyone to stay safe.

“It’s truly because everyone has done their part. They’ve worn masks, they’ve social distanced.” said Northern State University Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing and Communications Justin Fraase. “Those who are able to get vaccinated have elected to do so. And so it’s a total group effort, not only from people on campus but from the community as well.”

The Board of Regents has indicated that it plans to have a more normal start to the 2021-2022 academic year this fall, including lifting some restrictions. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any worry moving forward. The board and universities will continue to monitor their local COVID-19 situations and adjust accordingly. That means that if needed, institutions can put back into place those restrictions.

“At the same time, we’re really going to have to keep monitoring the situation.” said Dakota State University Interim Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs Jim Moran. “I know our COVID situation certainly lessened, we’re not convinced it’s absolutely gone away. And we’ll just have to keep monitoring and see where things are.”

However Maher said it’s a step in the right direction to lift the restriction and monitor how it plays out next semester. As more people get vaccinated and with the Board of Regents taking away lessons from this past year, he said it’s a sign of a more normal year to come.

“We didn’t lose sight, and we will never lose sight of our number one issue. And that is the safety of all of our students, and all of our faculty and staff.” said Maher.

Maher said May 10th was chosen by the board because it comes after the spring semester has ended, as well as graduations. He said that masks are still required at those ceremonies this weekend across each public university in the state.

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