Missouri State will drop mask mandate and other pandemic protocols at the end of May

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 6:26 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri State University has announced that Monday, May 31 will be the final day of its mask mandate and other protocols put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news that students and faculty has long been waiting for comes after 14 months of what MSU President Clif Smart called the most challenging times he’s ever experienced at the school.

It was back in mid-March 2020 that the campus was closed down for the spring semester and students took classes through a variety of alternate methods such as Zoom, e-mail or phone.

The campus slowly reopened last summer and by fall students were allowed back on campus although some chose to continue to take classes online and the campus had a very different feel with masks and social distancing required, limitations on dorm visitation and smaller class sizes.

Some wondered if we’d ever get back to “normal”.

But come the first day of June, virtually all of the protocols and the signs all around campus that went with them will be gone.

“I’m very excited for the fall and for things to be back in a mostly normal kind of situation,” Smart said. “From convocation and welcome weekend activities to normalization of classes and Bear Village. All those things are very exciting for us. But we didn’t just make the decision because we were tired of the rules we were living under. Through the last 14 months we’ve always tried to make the decisions based on the science. So when the CDC came out and said if you’d been vaccinated there’s virtually no chance that you’re going to get a serious illness, that told us it was time to transition back to college as usual.”

On Wednesday at Missouri State’s Welcome Center, potential students and their families were all masked up for their campus tour because the mask requirements are still in place until Monday.

But should those students decide to come to MSU (unless there’s a drastic change in the COVID-19 landscape), they won’t have to deal with what students have had to endure for the last 14 months.

It’s definitely a relief.

“I’m not gonna miss wearing a diaper on my face,” said a lady as she walked through the administration building.

And what about all the inconveniences of not being able to do things like....?

“Breathing,” said Allegra Schaeffer with a laugh as she pointed out the masks can make even taking in air a challenge.

Schaeffer and Ashlyn Spinabella are student workers at the Welcome Center.

Spinabella is a junior from Ozark.

“I’m very excited to see other people’s faces,” she said of the months spent seeing just the eyes of her fellow students covered by masks. “I’m also excited to go to class without a mask on and not be online every class period.”

Schaeffer a senior from St. Charles, is a theater/dance major.

“It’s great to have the prospect of performing in front of people again,” she said. “That’s kind of what we live for.”

Both students also lamented the lack of social interaction during the pandemic as many people say that your college days are where you make so many friends for life.

“I lived in a sorority house and we couldn’t have any visitors come in so it really hindered our relationships and connections,” Spinabella said. “Not even being able to sit in your room and talk to someone else.”

“I had a real struggle with mental health with the whole lock down and everything,” Schaeffer added. “Not being able to be with friends. I’m an extrovert so I crave the energy I have with people.”

Now campus life will be changing once again and Smart says he understands why seeing all the pandemic protocols suddenly disappear may unnerve some people.

“It was hard to get to where we’ve operated the last 14 months. It’s gonna be hard for some people to move out of that,” he said. “But we really have moved from all the precautions to the best precaution, which is you get the vaccine. So if we’re not gonna go back to normal now, when would we go back to normal?”

Smart though pointed out that the lessons learned during the pandemic in keeping students and faculty healthy and safe will continue.

“If we can’t learn some things from the last 14 months shame on us,” he said.

And among the changes made during the pandemic that will stick around?

“ I think we’ll have some cleanliness things that will continue on,” Smart said. “We’ll have some remote work that will continue. A lot of students like the ability to take one or two or three classes online.”

Masks will also still be required at the campus clinics just as they will still be required at Springfield’s hospitals.

As for the students who endured one of the strangest times in our nation’s history, it’s created a special bond.

“Having those relationships that we have built out of necessity to get through this are gonna be there for the rest of our lives,” Schaeffer said.

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