YSU-OEA Members to Protest COVID Plan Friday

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Members of YSU-OEA, the faculty union at Youngstown State University, will protest outside Tod Hall Friday at 9 a.m. to express dissatisfaction with the university’s COVID-19 plan for fall semester beginning Aug. 30.

Despite a surge of new COVID-19 infections due to the Delta variant’s spread in Ohio, YSU is not requiring masks or vaccines, the organization said in a statement Thursday. Last week, YSU announced it would not mandate masks or vaccines for the fall semester.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Guidance for Institutes of Higher Education where not everyone is vaccinated recommends “consistent and correct use of masks,” especially in areas where the CDC lists the level of community transmission as substantial to high, according to the release. Mahoning County is currently listed as having substantial community transmission, as are neighboring Trumbull, Columbiana, Portage and Stark counties.

YSU is an outlier among its peers as one of the only public universities in Ohio not requiring social distancing or masks to be worn indoors, YSU-OEA stated. Some public universities are also requiring students living on campus and faculty and staff to be vaccinated prior to the start of fall semester.

YSU is relying upon engineering controls, such as ventilation, air filtration and surface cleaning and disinfection, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Per YSU officials, this plan is based upon pre-COVID guidance from the CDC’s 2015 Hierarchy of Controls. Faculty input on these measures, including requests to institute a mask mandate, have not yet been satisfactorily addressed by YSU’s administration, the organization stated.

The release cited recent social media posts on the personal Facebook profile of Julie Gentile, YSU’s director of environmental occupational health and safety and the university official in charge of campus COVID protocols, particularly posts that were flagged as containing misinformation about COVID-19, and other posts criticize mask and vaccine mandates.

YSU-OEA has requested the data used to formulate COVID-19 protection policies on campus, maintaining that current measures do not align with CDC or city and county health department guidelines, the organization stated.

“We are becoming increasingly concerned that the university policy is out of step with best practices and with current science, and we’re troubled by the university’s reluctance to deploy even the most basic, sensible and recommended measures to protect students, staff and the community at large,” said Mark Vopat, YSU-OEA spokesperson. “Administration has even prohibited faculty from requiring masking and social distancing in their own classrooms. This prevents us from protecting our most vulnerable students and colleagues, and the vulnerable family members and communities they may return home to.

“We also know that conditions at YSU affect the lives of everyone in the Youngstown community. Keeping our community safe starts with keeping our students and employees safe by implementing policies based on the best and most reliable and available science to ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing,” he added.

Source: YSU-OEA

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.