The University of Missouri System will stop requiring masks starting Saturday at all four campuses, but local mandates in Kansas City and St. Louis will mean the face coverings must remain on at those locations.
Statewide, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped sharply in recent weeks. A news release from the University of Missouri System on Thursday said the temporary mask mandate put in place in July and extended in September — when the delta variant of the virus was still ravaging Missouri — was set to expire on Saturday and will not be renewed.
University President Mun Choi said the mandate worked, helping to avoid a spike in campus cases and hospitalizations.
“The requirements were never intended to be a permanent policy," Choi said in the news release. "Moving forward, we believe vaccination, personal responsibility and continued vigilance from our campus community will help guide us through this stage of the pandemic.”
The university will continue to request, but not mandate, masks in indoor spaces, particularly those where social distancing isn't possible. It also will abide by local mask mandates, which means masks are still necessary at the campuses in St. Louis and Kansas City.
Boone and Phelps counties, home to the Columbia campus and Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, recommend but don't require indoor masks.
After a summer peak of more than 2,400 daily hospitalizations for COVID-19, the number had dropped by half to 1,205, according to information posted on the state health department's website. All told, Missouri has reported 690,432 confirmed cases and 11,821 deaths since the pandemic began in early 2020.