File Photo by Joselyn King - West Liberty University professor Carol Zombotti, from left, WLU President W. Franklin Evans and professor Jessica Collins wear masks during an event at Campbell Hall in February 2021. Evans announced Friday the university would lift its indoor mask mandate, effective Monday.

WEST LIBERTY — Now that the number of COVID-19 cases has decreased locally many people are likely breathing a sigh of relief — and on some college campuses students are getting to do just that without having to wear a mask.

West Liberty University is the latest educational institution to do away with its mask mandate starting Monday. WLU President W. Franklin Evans made the announcement on Friday that students will no longer be required to wear masks while inside on campus.

“Our COVID-19 Task Force presented this recommendation to the cabinet based on the fact that it is a reasonable and safe decision to drop the mask requirement due to current CDC and state of West Virginia guidelines. Of course, those who wish to continue to wear a mask for safety (like myself) are welcome to do so,” Evans said in a news release.

It was noted there are still some exceptions to the relaxing of this rule. For example, an individual professor can still request students to wear masks inside their classroom. And students in Health Science programs may still be required to wear a mask.

The school will continue to offer N95 masks to students and employees who need them.

Evans said the university decided to end its mandate based on the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decreasing nationwide.

According to the Friday COVID-19 dashboard from the Department of Health and Human Services, there were just 795 active cases statewide, down from 21,717 on Jan. 22.

“We are most grateful to everyone who has assisted us in keeping our campus safe and adhering to safety precautions during the pandemic,” Evans said.

WLU is not the only local college to lift its ban. Wheeling University last month decided to end its mask mandate for the remainder of its spring semester. West Virginia Northern Community College also ended its mask mandate in February.

Meanwhile, Bethany College still has a classroom mask mandate in place, but no masks were no longer required at other indoor locations on campus starting Feb. 28.

“Our intention is to be 100% mask optional, including classrooms, on April 1,” said interim President Jamie Caridi, in a letter to students. “Select college events, as designated by the Cabinet, may still require masks during this time of transition. These will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

“Thank you for the sacrifice, vigilance, and care that each of you have demonstrated throughout this challenging time. It’s because of your efforts that we’re able to make these changes.”

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