COLUMBIA - With COVID-19 cases decreasing, the University of Missouri has decided to let its mask mandate expire Friday.

After Thursday's announcement, students and faculty have mixed feelings toward the mandate expiring. A university spokesperson explained recent COVID-19 efforts made by MU's community led to the decision.

"We feel that things are in a great place right now, we've continued to have discussions and we felt that we could remove that mandate," Christian Basi said.

The mandate was originally voted into place on Aug. 2, with it being renewed in a close 5-4 vote by the UM System curators in September. 

Local cases have continued to decrease, prompting MU to send out an email Thursday morning announcing the changes. 

Students, faculty and staff will now have the option to wear masks while indoors. MU is still recommending the use of masks indoors, no matter if you are or not vaccinated. 

Kate Trauth, chair of the MU Faculty Council, knew the decision was likely to occur. She said she will still request her students wear their masks during class.

"I think because the numbers have been down pretty good, the Board of Curators based their decision on this," Trauth said. "Since our numbers have been good, I really was not surprised."

Trauth believes that keeping an open dialogue with students and faculty is still necessary after the decision.

"I think one of the most productive things that we can do now is really engage with our colleagues and students," Trauth said. "Having a conversation about how we can continue to to wear masks and be the safest we can for all sakes is the next step."

Even with active student cases currently at 29, not all students are certain MU's decision is the right one. Many classes are held in lecture halls and without masks, freshman Yan Tarna explained she would not feel safe. 

"I took all virtual classes last year and this year having classes in person has been a new experience," Tarna said. "I think we should keep the mask mandate mandatory just because not everyone has had the vaccine."

Basi explained the MU officials made the decision in the highest regard for faculty and students. Even though there is no official vaccine mandate for students and faculty, vaccination efforts contributed to the removal, according to Basi.

"Our community has been fantastic at getting vaccinated and complying with recommendations from the CDC," Basi said. 

If students do not feel comfortable in class, Basi said MU has accommodations for these students. 

"Any student that has a health concern can reach out to our disability office and determine what kinds of accommodations can be made for their specific situation," said Basi. 

MU continues to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to all Missourians aged 12 years and older and all MU students. 

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