Clemson University will not require masks or vaccinations when students return to school later this month.
President James Clements released a statement Wednesday saying school officials would strongly recommend both, but state mandates prevent them from making masking and vaccinations a requirement.
“While we all had hoped this pandemic would be behind us when we arrived in August, it is clear the Delta variant has changed the dynamics and heightened our need for continued diligence to protect our students, faculty and staff,” Clements said in the statement.
Student testing will continue, including pre-arrival testing. The university will host vaccination clinics for two weeks. Classes begin Aug. 18.
“The guidelines and requirements — including pre-arrival and ongoing testing and our very strong recommendation for everyone to wear a mask when indoors — are based upon scientific data and recommendations from public health experts, while also being mindful of the state mandates, which place limitations on our mitigation strategies.”
The statement said physical distancing will not be required. In addition, classrooms and other spaces will be operated at full capacity.
Masks will be required in medical facilities.
Cases were low through the summer and in late July began trending up, according to the university’s COVID dashboard.
Last spring and summer, Clemson administrators spent months putting together an intricate plan for student, faculty and staff safety that included mask wearing and physical distancing. In addition, classes were taught online for a month past the normal start of school.
Officials said the delay was because September is generally cooler than August, reducing somewhat the need for air conditioning.
The university spent more than a million dollars reconfiguring classrooms and buying face masks and cleaning supplies.Even with all that, the community experienced spikes of COVID cases, especially after football games, through the school year.