North Texas Daily

University now requires COVID-19 testing, urges compliance with Denton’s new mask mandate

University now requires COVID-19 testing, urges compliance with Denton’s new mask mandate

University now requires COVID-19 testing, urges compliance with Denton’s new mask mandate
August 15
11:37 2021

New recommendations and requirements have been announced by the university following the City of Denton’s recently passed mask mandate.

Mandatory COVID-19 testing will now be required for all students, faculty and staff. The testing will be phased through intervals throughout the fall 2021 semester, with the first interval starting on August 16 through September 10. Fully vaccinated individuals can opt-out of the mandatory testing requirement by uploading proof of vaccination by Sept. 10.

While the university did not pass its own mask mandate, President Neal Smatresk strongly urged the campus community to comply with Denton’s new legislation.

“With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, especially among those who remain unvaccinated, I request that all students, faculty, and staff comply with a new mandate from the City of Denton to wear a face covering indoors per CDC guidance for our region,” Smatresk said in a statement released on Aug. 13. 

University members will also be required to report any symptoms of COVID-19 to COVID@unt.edu and follow proper quarantine processes with the assistant of the university’s COVID-19 tracing team. Those living on campus have been instructed to develop a plan in the event they are required to isolate or quarantine, as the university is not providing a location for students to do so this year.

Students who fail to comply with any of the new requirements will face punishments through the student conduct process. This may result in a student becoming ineligible to participate in university activities and privileges or face possible suspension or expulsion. Faculty and staff members who fail to comply will receive a verbal warning for noncompliance initially, followed by a written memo for noncompliance, which will result in ineligibility for merit in the 2021-2022 school year.

Effective Aug. 13, Denton’s new executive order mandates all commercial entities to develop a health and safety policy. At minimum, these policies must include universal indoor masking for all employees and visitors. Other measures including temperature checks and health screenings are recommended. 

Commercial entities must also post the policies outlined by the order to any location capable of providing notice of the new health and safety measures. Failure to adapt to the new guidelines and provide sufficient notice by Aug. 16 will result in a fine of no more than $1000 per violation. 

The order also requires Denton Independent School District public schools and daycare centers to ensure that all individuals wear a mask while indoors, with an exception for those aged two and under. Other safety measures, such as distancing three feet apart among students in classrooms, are also urged. Face masks are also required inside city-owned buildings.

Denton’s mask mandate was passed with a 5-2 vote. Councilmembers Deb Armintor, Paul Meltzer, Alison Maguire, Brian Beck and Vicki Byrd voted for the order while Councilmember Jesse Davis and Mayor Gerard Hudspeth voted against it. The mandate is in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-38, which bans government entities from passing mask mandates or vaccination requirements in the state of Texas.

Denton is not alone, as cities, counties and school boards across the state have instituted their own mask mandates. However, Abbott has threatened legal action.

“Any school district, public university or local government official that decides to defy GA-38 — which prohibits [government] entities from mandating masks — will be taken to court,” Gov. Abbott tweeted on Aug. 11.

The White House is currently checking to see if it can challenge Republican governors’ ban of mask mandates, according to the Texas Tribune. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president is looking for ways to “help the leaders at the local level who are putting public health first.”

Featured Image: Students walk through the Union on March 3, 2021. Image by John Anderson

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