Due to the Arkansas Department of Health’s new mask mandates, fully vaccinated students, teachers and guests will no longer be required to wear face masks on campus, according to a statement released by UCA President Houston Davis, Thursday, May 20.

Although the rule is being lifted, it remains in order for the duration of summer courses.

The statement from Davis said that “fully vaccinated employees, students, and guests will no longer be required to wear face coverings in campus facilities with the exception of summer term classrooms and laboratories. In fairness to all the students that registered for summer classes under the assumption of a face covering requirement, we will continue our original plan to require face coverings in summer 2021 classes through the July 29, 2021 implementation date of the state law eliminating face covering requirements by any public entity in Arkansas.”

After the new rule is in order July 29, Davis said that those who are not fully vaccinated will still have to adhere to the previous requirement of wearing a face mask within all indoor spaces on the university’s campus.

As for what is defined as fully vaccinated, it is said in the statement that an individual must be two weeks past the second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

Additionally, Davis made it important to note that nobody other than Student Health Clinic workers are permitted to ask others if they are fully vaccinated or not.

The Student Health Center has distributed 1471 vaccines and has found 596 cases of COVID-19 on campus as of June 2.

However, the university has had no cases of COVID-19 since May 18, according to the university’s website.

Dr. Randy Pastor from the Student Health Center believes the absence of cases stems from two things; natural immunity to the virus and more vaccines given to those on campus

Although cases have gone down significantly, plenty of people have voiced concerns in regards to the newness of the vaccine and its effectiveness. In response to many people’s hesitancy to get vaccinated, Pastor gave his perspective as a medical professional

“If you’ve been fully vaccinated, it’s been shown to be extremely, extremely effective to protect you against the illness,” Pastor said. “In fact, based on global statistics right now...if you’ve been fully vaccinated, then you have less than 1/100th of a percent chance of being hospitalized with COVID-19...That’s how effective it is.”

Furthermore, he said with assurance that “the vaccine is far better than we ever hoped it would be when it was first created. It’s the safest and most effective vaccine that I’ve seen in my 34 years as a doctor.”

Pastor also said that getting vaccinated is the best way to keep people safe from the virus on campus, regardless if one has had the virus previously.

“What’s going to really ensure safety is to have the maximum amount of people vaccinated. Even if you had COVID-19, the recommendation is still [to] get vaccinated because then we know for sure that our population is immune.

“Go ahead and get vaccinated,” Pastor said as a message to everyone on campus. “It’s a very safe vaccine, it’s free, and that way it ensures we have maximum immunity on campus when everyone comes back.”

Moreover, he shared a personal experience, giving more encouragement and confidence to those who may be hesitant about receiving the vaccine.

“Personally, I had COVID-19 in October and I still received the vaccine. I’m not recommending anything that I have not already done myself.”

For students or faculty and staff members looking to receive a vaccine, Davis said, “As a reminder, all UCA employees, family of employees, and all students may receive the COVID-19 vaccine through our UCA Student Health Clinic. The vaccines are free of charge and can be used for either the first or second Pfizer dose. Please call the Student Health Clinic at 501-450-3136 to schedule an appointment or receive additional information about the vaccine.”

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