TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — With the beginning of fall semester just a few weeks away, many universities are announcing their back to school guidelines.
Today was day one of Indiana State University’s new mask mandate. Face coverings are required inside of all indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status. In a press release, the school’s president, Deborah Curtis, said the mandate is in accordance with recommendations by both the CDC and ISDH.
Student Jacob Shepard says he’s not surprised to see new protocols implemented.
“I kind of saw this coming with Coronavirus cases on the rise. For the most part, the United States has been saying you should still wear a mask. That’s what the CDC has been telling us for awhile. If you want to be protected, just keep your mask on,” Shepard said.
Though the university plans to continue in-person learning and activities at full capacity, incoming freshman David Allison says he was shocked by this announcement.
“We all got our hopes up real high after the vaccine, after we were told we didn’t have to wear masks anymore and now we’re back here. I just hope our first year of college will go well and we can meet new people,” Allison said. “It’s kind of frustrating, it feels like we’re going back to how things were.”
While some may not be excited about the new mandate, Daniel Bailey said he prefers to wear a mask if ir means classes and social functions can remain in-person.
“I was shocked when I heard this, but nobody could predict the future. I just hope we can stay on campus and not have to go back to being fully remote. That was horrible. I’ll do distanced learning if needed and if it keeps people safe.” Bailey said.
While vaccines aren’t mandated, I.S.U. has developed an incentive program to encourage staff and students to get the shot.
Those include being entered into a drawing for prizes like free parking passes and book vouchers. This link provides the full list of incentives.
“I believe the vaccine shouldn’t be forced upon people. Everyone should have a right to whether they should have vaccine or not. Ultimately, I think incentives are a good compromise.” Incoming freshman, Lucas George said.
George adds at times it has been difficult keeping up with changing guidelines and procedures.
According to the Vigo County Health Department, the area is seeing 10-20 COVID-19 cases a day and increased hospitalizations.
With new mask mandates taking effect at local colleges and universities, combined with the C.D.C.’s newest guidelines, Health Educator, Roni Elder says conversations continue on what’s next for Vigo County.
“A mask mandate in Vigo County is definitely not out of the question. I think this whole pandemic, we always let everyone know we’re moving forward. But, depending on the numbers, hospitalizations; we can always step back.” Elder said.
Since last week Vigo County has seen a slight increase in COVID-19 vaccinations.
“We’re at a point where we can beat the pandemic. If people get vaccinated, we can beat it. The vaccine doesn’t prevent COVID-19, but it lessens the chances someone may get it.” Elder added.
Wabash Valley colleges and universities that are requiring masks for staff, students and visitors include, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Ivy Tech Community College, and Vincennes University.