By Margaret Everson, Staff Writer

Are you tired of wearing a mask and staying six feet from others? Many people are.  

“Masks are sometimes uncomfortable and irritating to wear,” said Alex Tugaw, a second-year student at UAS, “but they’re an essential part of protecting our community.” 

Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, said masks are “a big conspiracy theory.” 

Whatever your opinions about masks may be, they are required on the UAS campus and throughout the City and Borough of Juneau until further notice. 

UAS students have been handling COVID-19 policies incredibly well, according to Vice Chancellors Lori Klein and Michael Ciri. Students’ resilience and adaptability throughout the pandemic have been inspiring to Ciri. Klein said students’ good attitude has carried the staff and faculty through difficult stages of the pandemic.

COVID-19 is prevalent throughout the state of Alaska, thanks to the delta variant. 

According to the CDC, the highly contagious delta variant is associated with more severe symptoms, as well as breakthrough infections in vaccinated individuals. Unvaccinated people often experience worse illness and a higher death rate than the normal COVID-19 virus. 

Alaska had 677 new cases of the virus on Sept. 11 alone, and more than 200 people were hospitalized, some on ventilators. The statewide threat level is high. Fifty-six percent of Alaskans 12 and over have been fully vaccinated. 

The numbers in Southeast Alaska tell a different story. Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka are all at COVID-19 risk level three. Though there are some new cases every day, 81% of those 12 and older in Juneau have been vaccinated. 

CBJ policies include masks for those vaccinated and unvaccinated, limited social gatherings, and other restrictions. Testing is recommended for symptomatic individuals and travelers.

Current UAS campus policies dictate that anyone entering public spaces on campus must wear a mask and practice social distancing. Anyone with a positive COVID-19 test or virus-like symptoms is discouraged from entering UAS facilities.

Ciri and Klein are both involved in COVID-19 policymaking. 

As Vice Chancellor for Administration, Ciri oversees the policymaking process for COVID-19 and communicates those policies to faculty and staff.

Klein is Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, and communicates the policies to students. 

UAS policies are based on CDC guidance, as well as federal, state, local, and UA system requirements. The UAS Incident Management Team monitors local COVID-19 conditions and communicates procedures to the campus.

Klein said UAS is fully open for on-campus student engagement and to the general public.

Housing is operating at full capacity, with the exception of Banfield Hall, which is reserved for students in quarantine. Off-campus guests are welcome to visit residence halls. Housing policies are contingent upon residents being vaccinated, choosing guests carefully, and taking responsibility for their own health and safety.

According to Ciri, any UAS student or staff member experiencing symptoms or receiving a positive COVID-19 test should email uas.virusresponse@alaska.edu. They will receive answers to any questions and information about available resources.

Campus housing residents should contact UAS Residence Life to report symptoms or positive test results. Klein said the virus response team will assist students in quarantine with accessing academic, medical, and other resources.

To keep up to date on current UAS campus COVID-19 policies, students, staff, and UAS affiliates can go to https://uas.alaska.edu/COVID-19-plan/index.html. Policy updates are also emailed and posted around campus.