COVID-19 Masking Policy

March 24, 2021

Effective November 4, 2020, the city of West Plains passed Ordinance 4672 requiring individuals to wear face coverings when in public (“Ordinance”). Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recommends that individuals cover their mouth and nose with a face covering that fastens below the chin (“Masks”) when around others.

Consistent with the Missouri State University Covid-19 Masking Policy, Ordinance and CDC guidance, Missouri State University-West Plains (“University”) is implementing the following policy in order to prevent and/or slow the spread of COVID-19 among University community members. This policy is effective immediately and will continue through May 31, 2021, provided that the University chancellor may modify the duration of this policy if needed.

Applicability of policy

This policy applies to faculty, staff, students, and visitors, and requires all such individuals to wear Masks covering their mouth and nose as more specifically indicated below. In addition, physical distancing of at least six feet should be observed whenever possible.

Masking is required in all buildings on campus

Masks are required to be worn in all buildings on campus, including in hallways, elevators, stairwells, classrooms, restrooms, study areas, departmental suites, and other common areas.

Exceptions to indoor masking requirements

Employees are not required to wear masks in their own, private offices within their departmental suites. Additionally, exceptions may be granted by the Dean of Academic Affairs for particular classes or academic activities for which masking is impracticable or contraindicated, provided that reasonable alternative mitigation strategies are implemented.

Furthermore, while masks are required to be worn in all buildings on campus, they are not required in the following circumstances:

  • While actively eating or drinking in a dining hall (including but not limited to Hass Darr student union, Kellett parlor, Lybyer lower level lobby and Richards House;
  • While inside residential rooms within the residence halls; or
  • While exercising at indoor campus exercise facilities in designated exercise areas, including the Student Recreation Center or West Plains Civic Center Pool and Fitness Center; or
  • For speakers or performers, when speaking or performing from a speaking platform that allows for a minimum physical distance of at least 20 feet between the speaker/performer and the such audience, in forums such as Melton Hall Auditorium, Amphitheater and West Plains Civic Center Theater (Note: this exception does not include faculty members or their guests who are lecturing in the classroom).

For the avoidance of doubt, masks must still be worn while entering or exiting a dining hall (including Hass Darr, Kellett and Lybyer) and while waiting to obtain food in such locations. In addition, food and drink are not permitted in classrooms to permit masks from being removed.

Similarly, with respect to indoor campus exercise facilities, masks must be worn while entering or exiting an indoor campus exercise facility, and while utilizing other common areas of such facilities (including restrooms, locker rooms, and lobbies).

While engaging in activities where masking is not required, it is particularly important to engage in physical distancing of at least six feet. Accordingly, the layout within dining halls and indoor campus exercise facilities will be modified to the extent possible in order to facilitate physical distancing.

Masking may be required at certain activities and events

While masks are not required outdoors in most cases, they may be required to be worn at certain outdoor university activities or events that present a higher risk of transmission and/or where physical distancing of at least six feet is not feasible. In such instances, signage will be posted communicating applicable masking requirements.

Types and availability of masks

While disposable surgical masks and N95 respirators satisfy the requirements of this policy, due to the shortage of personal protective equipment (“PPE”) for healthcare workers and other first responders, the University does not encourage their use by members of the University community.

Rather, individuals are encouraged to wear washable cloth face coverings, consistent with:

Such cloth face coverings will be provided at no cost to all employees. Additionally, a limited number of cloth face coverings will be provided to designated locations and made available to students at no cost.

Face coverings or masks that are made of mesh or that have open exhalation vents or holes do not satisfy the requirements of this policy.

In lieu of masking, faculty members are permitted to wear face shields while in the classroom, provided that the faculty member is able to maintain at least six (6) feet of distance from all students. Such face shields will be provided to faculty members at no cost.

Exceptions to masking requirements

In the event that an individual cannot wear a Mask due to an underlying disability, they may initiate the University’s interactive accommodations process in order to request a “reasonable accommodation. Students who wish to request an accommodation may contact the disability support officer, located in Lybyer Enhanced Technology Center, Room 210, and available at PTate@MissouriState.edu; (417) 255-8062; or TTY (417) 255-7715. Employees who wish to request an accommodation may contact the Deputy Compliance Officer, located in Carrington Hall, Suite 205, and available at JuliaHolmes@MissouriState.edu; (417) 836-6755; or Relay Missouri at 711 or (800) 676-3777.

Enforcement of masking requirements

Students who have not been granted an accommodation and who refuse to wear a mask while in the classroom or other academic settings are subject to administrative withdrawal, consistent with the academic policy for Class Disruption. Additionally, students who fail to comply with this policy in areas outside the classroom or other academic settings are subject to disciplinary action consistent with the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Employees who have not been granted an accommodation and who refuse to comply with this policy are subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

Conflict with other university policies

Notwithstanding the masking prohibitions set forth in G5.02 Expressive Activity Policy and Facilities Usage procedures, individuals engaging in expressive activity on campus may wear masks that cover their mouths and noses as long as this policy remains in effect.

FAQs about masking

Do I still need to wear a face covering if I have been vaccinated?

  • Yes. The CDC still recommends wearing a mask in public settings even after being fully vaccinated and the university follows this guidance.

Are gaiters allowed as face coverings?

  • Yes. However, university policy encourages everyone to follow the CDC and WHO guidance, and gaiters do not meet the standards set forth in that guidance.

Are masks with exhalation ports allowed?

  • No. Individuals are encouraged to follow the CDC and WHO guidance, and masks with exhalation ports do not meet the standards set forth in that guidance.

Are mesh masks allowed?

  • No. Individuals are encouraged to follow the CDC and WHO guidance, and mesh masks do not meet the standards set forth in that guidance.

​​​​​​​Are masks with offensive messages or symbols allowed on campus?

  • Yes. Offensive messages and symbols are considered protected speech under the First Amendment. However, a complaint can be filed with the Bias Response Team.