The Potluck

University of Minnesota implements mask mandate for fall semester

By: - August 2, 2021 1:12 pm

Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota / photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota is reinstating its mask mandate weeks before students are set to return to campus, University President Joan Gabel announced Monday.

Effective Tuesday, all students, staff, faculty and visitors at the system’s campuses across the state will have to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, according to the announcement. The policy comes days after the federal Centers for Disease Control issued new guidance recommending all people in areas of high COVID-19 spread wear masks indoors.

Gabel cited the CDC guidance as a factor in the university’s decision. The highly contagious Delta variant is driving an uptick in cases across Minnesota and the country, although the number of “breakthrough” infections among vaccinated people remains small.

Roughly 3,880 fully vaccinated Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19 — fewer than 0.1% of people with the completed vaccine series. The vast majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are not vaccinated, state health officials said in late July.

As of July 26, 6,239 fully vaccinated people had been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the CDC. That’s roughly 0.003% of the 164.9 million vaccinated Americans. Of the hospitalized patients, more than 25% were asymptomatic or hospitalized for something unrelated to COVID-19.

Separately, Minnesota State colleges and universities leadership are recommending that the system’s 37 campuses require masks indoors if they’re located in areas with high rates of transmission.

Neither the University of Minnesota nor Minnesota State have implemented vaccination requirements, although they’re encouraging students and staff to get the shot. Some private colleges like Carleton, Macalester and Hamline have announced that students and staff will have to be immunized for the fall semester.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.