Northland Colleges and Universities adopt face mask requirements

The Associated Press and WDIO-TV
Updated: June 30, 2020 07:41 PM

Northland colleges and universities like UMD, Lake Superior College, and College of St. Scholastica have new requirements on wearing face masks on campus as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths continue to climb in Minnesota.


University of Minnesota officials sent an email to students Monday announcing that beginning Wednesday, all faculty, students and visitors to the campuses will be required to wear a face covering in any enclosed indoor space. Some exceptions include an assigned apartment or residence hall or when alone in an office or study area.

"We now know that wearing a face covering provides valuable, albeit imperfect, protection against the spread of COVID-19, and it is a visual reminder that we must all take precautions to protect our own health and the health of those around us," U of M President Joan Gabel said in the message.

The requirement affects all U of M campuses, including Duluth. Further details can be found here.

"I definitely think it's a safety measure that needed to be taken. I think it's a good precaution and although it may be slightly uncomfortable, it is something that we need to do to keep our community safe," said Maria Versaguis, a UMD student.

UMD Chancellor Lendley Black said advice from health experts and concerns from staff and students led to this health decision.

"We've heard strong voices from faculty and from some staff as well about their feeling that it really is important to require the masks because of their concern for their own safety as well as the safety of their families and the safety of our students and we feel like we can provide the best safe, educational environment for everybody if the masks are required," said Black.

"Especially for our students who are high risk, it's something that we have to do to ensure that they're able to continue their education as well. I know personally I have people in my specific program who are high risk and I just want to make sure that they feel safe in the learning environment so I'm just here to do my part," said Versaguis.

Other students are concerned about how this will impact their program, like Rachel Gydesen, who is a student teacher at UMD.

"I am curious to see how this affects students in majors where it will be difficult such as my field in elementary and special education. It may be heard teaching young students concepts such as letter sounds with a mask on," said Gydesen.

Other Northland colleges also have a similar policy in effect. Since Monday, the College of St. Scholastica started requiring face masks in public spaces on campus and extended sites where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as when entering or exiting campus, lounges, hallways, restrooms, etc.

Robert Ashenmacher, the CSS executive director of communications, said this policy also applys where workstations do not permit at least six feet between employees.  The use of face coverings is also encouraged within office suites even if physical distancing measures can be practiced.

Lake Superior College is also enforcing a face mask policy which goes into effect starting July 13. Daniel Fanning, the vice president of external relation at LSC, said the college has already been promoting use of face masks for a while and says everyone has been cooperating well.

"It's perhaps a minor inconvenience now to have to wear a mask but at the same time our ultimate goal is to make sure that we can keep our services available both on campus and online this fall and next spring," said Fanning.

Elsewhere, the city councils in Edina and Rochester both voted Monday to require face masks in all city facilities. Some residents have also emailed Duluth city councilors urging them to consider a similar requirement. There is also an online citizen petition.

"I want those folks to know that they've been heard and that that is certainly something that I anticipate will be a topic of conversation and there will be more to come on what we might do here locally," said city councilor Arik Forsman.

Forsman said this is important and is a topic that has been ramping up but for now, said nothing has been decided by the council or mayor.


The Associated Press and WDIO-TV

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