Despite the University of Kansas requiring students, staff and faculty to mask up while indoors on campus, the updated mask policy no longer requires masks inside Allen Fieldhouse.
"The University of Kansas has updated its policy on mask wearing for men’s and women’s basketball games in Allen Fieldhouse," a KU Athletics representative told the Kansan Friday. "Masks are strongly recommended for fans in Allen Fieldhouse, a shift from the mask requirement the university has been implementing this fall. The mask recommendation means that guests are still highly encouraged to properly wear a mask when not actively eating or drinking. This is especially true for unvaccinated individuals, including children ages 2 years and older."
“By visiting our facilities you voluntarily assume all risks related to the exposure and spread of COVID-19,” reads a sign on an east side entrance to Allen Fieldhouse.
The first sight of this new change was on Wednesday when Kansas men’s basketball hosted Nevada. In familiar fashion, close to 16,000 fans cheered — mostly maskless — while standing in close proximity to each other. Until Wednesday, ushers stood with red and blue placards that reminded fans to mask up; now, those signs are nowhere to be seen.
Although the university mandate no longer applies at Allen Fieldhouse, signs reminding fans of the mask mandate are still posted on doors outside of the building.
“My understanding of the enforcement of the mask requirement was, was really challenging, and it was hard,” Rémy Lequesne, faculty senate president said. “...from my perspective…I want to get out of this, everyone I know wants this to end. And the way we do that is to follow the science, which is wearing masks getting vaccinated. And so even without a requirement, I hope people continue to wear masks to the games.”
Lequesne also said he was not involved in the decision to alter the mask mandate but was notified ahead of time.
Currently, the on-campus mask mandate still remains in place, meaning the updated policy for Allen Fieldhouse provides unique guidelines for the building, despite being located on the KU campus.
This decision comes amid a recent influx in COVID-19 cases nationwide and locally, According to the Lawrence Medical Hospital, Douglas County is currently in the highest of its three transmission tiers.
The new Omicron variant’s presence in the county is likely contributing to greater levels of transmission. The Lancet estimates the Omicron variant’s R0 — a measure of infectiousness — could be as high as 10; the original strain had an R0 of 2-5.
As of today, 14,853 people in Douglas County contracted COVID-19, while 111 people have died, according to the New York Times.
“The decision to rescind the mask mandate at Allen Fieldhouse is very unfortunate,” Hossein Saiedian, 2022 university senate president, said. “The new mutation of the coronavirus known as Omicron is very contiguous and spreads more easily and widely, especially in a crowded and dense area like Allen Fieldhouse….The rescind decision gives everyone a carte blanche and a false impression that it is ok not to wear a mask”
The Kansan reached out to university administration for comment and has not heard back.