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Faculty, supporters protest YSU's COVID-19 strategy, call for 'science-based approach'

Youngstown City Health Commissioner Erin Bishop met with YSU administrators early Friday morning to reiterate the CDC's recommendations for masking indoors.

YOUNGSTOWN — “Mandate masks in your class!” chanted a group of several dozen Youngstown State University faculty members, administrators and their supporters.

The group on Friday rallied at Tod Hall to protest YSU administrators’ decision against requiring masks, social distancing or COVID-19 vaccines for about 11,000 students soon returning to campus to start their fall semester on Aug. 30.

Though the university has developed a COVID-19 mitigation plan, “this policy is misinformed and it’s an outlier” among nearly every other Ohio university requiring masks, said Mark Vopat, spokesperson for the Ohio Education Association’s YSU membership.

Youngstown City Health Commissioner Erin Bishop met with administrators shortly before Friday’s protest and told the union “she believed the meeting was productive,” reads a YSU-OEA release.

“She reiterated to administrators at the meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s strong recommendations for masking indoors and vaccinations as the delta variant continues to spread across Ohio and daily infection counts rise in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties,” the release states.

YSU-OEA was denied representation at the meeting, the union says.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, Bishop had not returned calls for comment from Mahoning Matters.

About 50 people waved signs reading “Follow the science! Wear the mask!” and “Do no harm.” The turnout “shows that faculty are committed to a safe return to classes under the safest conditions possible for ourselves and students,” Vopat is quoted in the release.

That includes a “science-based approach” to infection control.

The university, which has been surveying the community by email on the safety controls they’d like to see on campus and whether they’ve been vaccinated or considering getting the jab, issued a statement following Friday morning’s protest:

“With the start of the fall semester still more than two weeks away, Youngstown State University remains engaged in continuous review of our COVID-19 protocols and in making adjustments when necessary.

“With recent concerns regarding masking on campus for the start of the fall semester, the university is in the process of gathering more information and reviewing our protocols concerning face coverings. That process includes a survey seeking information from students and employees regarding vaccines and other campus protocols. The survey has received nearly 2,600 responses since being emailed less than three days ago. In addition, university leadership met with city and county health officials this morning as part of the information-gathering process. Campus COVID-19 committees that have been in place since the start of the pandemic will also meet to discuss and gather further information.”

Any policy changes will be announced on the university's website. will update this report.

Justin Dennis

About the Author: Justin Dennis

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
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