UNA still requires mask despite local lifting


Ellen McDonald, Managing Editor

On April 7, Mayor Betterton sent out a news release after the expiration of the Ala. mask mandate. 

In the statement, Betterton said that the City of Florence has followed Governor Ivey’s guidance since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic and that they will continue to do so.

“As stated in the Governor’s press conference, the mask requirement is now at the discretion of business owners,” said Betterton in the news release. “I invite you to respect the decisions of our local business owners as it pertains to their individual requirements for service.” 

Betterton said that despite the local mask mandate being lifted, he and the members of the Florence City Council strongly encourage citizens to continue to wear their masks and to social distance. They also ask that individuals do this especially when gathering in large groups. 

“With the increase in vaccine eligibility, we are hopeful that the end of the pandemic is near and will soon return to some sort of normalcy,” said Betterton in the news release. “Until then, we can work together to create a more positive environment for our community by considering one another and respecting those with whom we share our beautiful city.”

Despite the lifting of the mask mandate, the University of North Alabama will continue to require masks and social distancing on campus. This decision came after the Coronavirus Recovery Task Force recommended that UNA continue to require face coverings.  

“We based our initial guidance on the CDC and ADPH… so we [UNA] we’re actually requiring face masks before the governor came out…” said the Vice President for Student Affairs, Kimberly Greenway. “We’re still taking it seriously, we’re still using CDC and ADPH as our guidance and we felt like we had good evidence that it [requiring masks] made a difference on our campus.”  

Greenway explained that UNA will require the wearing of face coverings during the summer. 

Over the summer, the majority of students will be off campus, but the university will be having in-person Student Orientation, Advisement, and Registration.

“We will continue to require masks and we will be doing temperature checks when they [incoming students] arrive,” said the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Tammy Jacques. 

Jacques said that for the summer, since incoming students stay the night for SOAR, they will be requiring one person per room. She added that if a student is attending SOAR with someone they spend a lot of time with they may choose to room together. 

“We wanted to make sure that we were still being safe and mitigating risks,” said Jacques. “Also, to mitigate the risk, we have decreased numbers and increased a SOAR session.” 

Incoming students will have the option to attend SOAR online. Furthermore, any transfer student who would like to attend SOAR in-person will have that option. 

Greenway said that for the fall guidance, the CRFT will look at UNA’s levels of herd immunity. According to The Mayo Clinic, herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. 

“Our hope would be that at least for our internal community, that we would have some herd immunity and we could lighten up a little bit; but we really don’t know what that’s going to look like,” said Greenway. 

Greenway explained that the number of individuals within the UNA community that have been vaccinated or have had the virus within a certain timeline will play a role in the university’s herd immunity. 

“There’s no plan to require vaccination,” said Jacques. “We’re going to offer it as long as we continue to get supply.” 

Jacques explained that as long as the CDC recommends the wearing of face coverings, UNA will do so. 

After the state order was lifted, Greenway explained that there has been a bit of confusion. 

“We still have good compliance on campus for the most part, but we are having to remind people,” said Greenway. “I think people are ready to take them [masks] off but… we’ve seen an expected uptake in cases on campus. We had twelve last week… and already this week we’re up to twenty campus cases.”

Greenway added that the increase in cases was expected after spring break and the Easter holiday. She explained that the university is aware that everyone has grown tired of all the guidelines. There is evidence, both nationally and locally as well as within the UNA community that the guidelines have worked. 

Greenway explained that the university does not want to move away from their guidelines too soon.

“We are working on the fall guidance already,” said Greenway. “We’ve done some revising to that document and we hope that it will be out by August first.”