CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – Coastal Carolina University’s on-campus mask mandate will remain in place through the end of the semester and end on Dec. 13, the university’s board of trustees decided Monday.
University President Michael Benson recommended an extension, stating that CCU wants to keep students in the classroom and out of quarantine for finals.
“The fact we’ve made it this far in the classroom and kept face-to-face instruction is critical,” he told the trustees during the virtual meeting. “It has been part of the success we’ve seen in our retention numbers.”
Benson said COVID-19 cases spike when students return from “transitional periods,” such as Thanksgiving break. He anticipates the same will happen this year.
The mandate has applied to all spaces on campus except for private offices and assigned residential rooms, suites and apartments. Masks were not required while eating.
The board extended the mandate in September. The current mandate will be lifted at the end of the semester, with an exemption for performing arts groups.
There were three positive cases in students and two new employee cases from Nov. 4 to Nov. 10, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard. CCU has seen 471 cases from July 29 until Nov. 10.
The decision comes as case counts continue to decline across the state. On Monday, the Department of Health and Environmental Control announced 365 new, confirmed cases, 171 probable cases and the confirmed COVID-19-caused death of one person, who lived in Florence County.
Of 18,697 new tests reported to the state, 3.1% were positive for the virus.
Monday’s update brings the state’s totals to 727,610 confirmed cases, 181,229 probable cases, 12,133 confirmed deaths and 1,900 probable COVID-19-caused deaths.
Horry County is one of 11 counties in the state which remains in DHEC’s “high” spread category, meaning it has seen more than 200 new cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period. Two counties have moved into the “low” category, with fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 people over the two-week period.
Retention for first-year students is 3.9% higher than the same time last year, according to Jim Solazzo, the university’s vice president for student success, enrollment management and student affairs.
Finals, he said, are already challenging for students.
“Getting sick in the midst of that is even more challenging,” he told the trustees.
His worry is that if students get placed on academic probation, they won’t return to the university.
The board moved into an executive session before the vote in order to discuss legal matters surrounding a mandate. The vote passed unanimously when they returned.