Idaho’s public four-year schools are reinstating mask mandates — less than two weeks before the start of fall classes.
But the policy isn’t yet final. The State Board of Education gets the last word, and will vote on the policy later this month.
In the meantime, the face mask requirements will go into effect Thursday at indoor facilities on campus, and some outdoor settings as well — regardless of the vaccination status of a student, employee or visitor.
“Although we hoped that this year would look more like pre-pandemic years, sharp increases in Delta variant COVID infections are concerning,” Boise State University President Marlene Tromp and fellow administrators said in a Wednesday email to the university community.
As the delta variant continues to drive case surges across the nation, Idaho is seeing a rapid rise in new case numbers. The 754 cases reported Tuesday represent the state’s largest one-day case count in nearly seven months.
The four-year schools — Boise State, the University of Idaho, Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College —required face coverings for 2020-21. But in order to go forward with a similar requirement this fall, they will need go-ahead from the State Board.
The board’s executive committee — President Kurt Liebich, Vice President David Hill and Secretary Linda Clark — discussed the mask requirements with college and university officials. The proposal will come before the eight-member board at its next meeting, on Aug. 25 and 26.
“The board has to decide whether to ratify or not,” spokesman Mike Keckler said Wednesday.
Fall classes begin at all four four-year schools on Aug. 23, days before the State Board meeting.
While the schools can mandate face coverings, with the State Board’s approval, they cannot require vaccines. Gov. Brad Little’s executive order banning “vaccine passports” applies to the higher education system.
Still, the four-year schools hope to encourage vaccinations.
“The safest and most effective way to protect yourself, your friends and loved ones, as well as our community, is to get vaccinated,” Boise State administrators said Wednesday.