UNA students and faculty mask up for the new semester

Ellen McDonald, News Editor

As students of the University of North Alabama return to campus, they will notice a few major changes to the daily functions and requirements of their campus. Due to the coronavirus, students must wear masks at all times and complete a daily health check. This is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of not only themselves but also their peers and professors. 

“UNA is requiring a face covering for employees, students and visitors that come onto campus,” said Tammy Jacques, the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs. “Information has been communicated via email to students and employees about the requirement. Signs have been placed all over campus and within buildings.”

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is to wear cloth face coverings. 

COVID-19 mainly spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or raises their voice, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The website also states that these droplets can land in the mouths of people who are nearby and can possibly be inhaled into the lungs. 

With students going back into classrooms, campus apartments and residence halls, this was a concern of the university. While most students will choose to wear cloth face masks, they are allowed to wear disposable medical masks if they choose. 

According to the CDC, masks may help prevent those who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. They go on to mention that wearing a mask will help protect people around you, including those at a higher risk of severe illness from the virus. 

As students make their way back onto UNA’s campus, masks will be a necessity. 

Many are opting to wear washable cloth face masks. While it might be easy to simply throw a mask into a bag when it is not needed and wear it again later, it is important to clean masks properly. 

The CDC recommends that a face mask be washed after each use. Masks can be thrown in with regular laundry, regular detergent and warm water. 

For busy college students who might not have constant access to a washing machine, this can be difficult. With that in mind, masks can be washed by hand. 

The CDC recommends to mix t tablespoons (⅓ cup) of household bleach per gallon of room temperature water. They also explain that 4 tablespoons of household bleach per 1 quart of room temperature water can also be used to clean masks. 

The mask should soak in the solution for 5 minutes and then be rinsed with cool or room temperature water. Masks can either be dried in a dryer machine or can lay down flat to air dry. After the mask has been properly washed and dried,  it will then be ready to protect the person wearing it again. 

When students who are living on campus this semester moved in, they were given a reusable UNA facemask upon their arrival. However, if additional masks are needed there are a few places on campus to acquire more.

“There will also be disposable masks available in the Student Engagement office during business hours,” said Jennifer Sutton, the Director of Housing and Residence Life. “Student Engagement is also repurposing unused t-shirts to be used as masks at organizational and student events.”

The Office of Student Engagement, located in the Guillot University Center (GUC), is offering free reusable face masks to students that need them. 

“The Student Government Association has been working to make sure that face masks are available to the student body for day-to-day use and for programming purposes,” Student Government Association President Tate Gooch said. “These face masks have been created from extra shirts from past UPC events, allowing for use from what went unused.”

Gooch said that the SGA facemasks will be available in the SGA Chambers, which is in the Student Engagement Center. He went on to mention that if groups are hosting events after office hours, they will be able to take what is needed for their event.

The mask requirement for the fall 2020 semester is not a suggestion. It is a requirement. Students must have on a face mask on campus unless they are within their own dorm room.

“We truly believe employees, students and visitors will comply with the policy to help protect the entire UNA community,” Sheena Burgreen, the manager of University Health Services said. “If we want to maintain having face to face courses and campus experiences, we need everyone to wear face coverings and adhere to the physical distance.”

In addition to wearing a mask, some campus events will require attendees to keep a 6 foot distance, undergo a temperature check, RSVP ahead of time or attend virtually.

“Individuals who absolutely will not comply will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct or Human Resources as appropriate,” Burgreen said. “University Health Services will continue to follow guidance from Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for contact tracing during the fall semester.”

Burgreen said that the university will work with The GuideSafe program powered by UAB to have sentinel testing on campus throughout the fall semester and more information will be released after the initial testing is completed.