BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The University at Buffalo will require all students, employees and visitors wear masks while inside campus buildings, regardless of vaccination status, starting Tuesday, August 3rd.
In email to students, the university said, "In accordance with updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Erie County Department of Health, the University at Buffalo will require all students, employees and visitors – regardless of their vaccination status – to wear face coverings while inside campus buildings, effective starting tomorrow, Aug. 3."
The university said vaccinated UB students and employees will not be required to wear masks outside, but unvaccinated individuals must keep face coverings on outdoors.
7 Eyewitness News reporter Olivia Proia asked SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras if he'd consider a SUNY wide mask mandate hours before the University at Buffalo announced mask requirements.
"Our campuses have the ability under their own guidelines to do more for masking if they want to, if they feel the community needs that. We're talking through right now whether those communities that are in the high risk zones by the CDC should be doing more masking. Many of our campuses are moving that direction so we'll know more this week on where we land on that. The ultimate goal is we want to cut that Delta variant off at the head. I think masking could help but vaccinating is the ultimate goal," Malatras said.
SUNY schools will require all students, faculty and staff have the COVID-19 vaccine once it's fully approved by the FDA.
"We have to make sure that we can go back to our campuses, 100% fully reopen, and the way to do that is to get the vaccination," Malatras said.
Malatras said so far it seems the majority of students have received the shot.
"In a recent survey of about 35,000 students, 72% at least got their first shot. That's good news, but that's not equally distributed across our system. Some campuses it's 40%. Some campuses it's 90%. Our goal is to get everyone close to 100%," Malatras said.
While the full FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccine is pending, SUNY is encouraging all students take the vaccine saying there's consequences if not.
"If you are unvaccinated you are going to be subject to more restrictions than if you are vaccinated. Right now, you still have to wear masks. You're subject to weekly testing, and you may not be able to do certain things. You may be restricted from on campus residential facilities. You may be restricted from participating in extracurricular activities," Malatras said.
As concerns over the Delta variant grow, Malatras said SUNY has a plan on standby.
"If it's March of 2020 again where COVID is increasing rapidly, we may have to go fully remote like we did," Malatras said, "But we hope not to get there. That's the last thing we want to do. We're ready for it. We can pivot at a moments notice."