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North Idaho College reinstates mask mandate

College President Rick MacLennan said the decision was made Thursday morning in consideration of the delta variant.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Beginning Monday with the first day of class, North Idaho College will require multi-layer face coverings be worn at all times while inside all NIC buildings when two or more people are present, as reported by KREM 2 news partner the Coeur d'Alene Press.

College President Rick MacLennan said the decision was made Thursday morning in consideration of the Delta variant, rise of COVID-19 cases in Idaho, number of COVID-19 patients in Idaho ICUs nearing the record set last December, and reports from Kootenai Health of concern for future space, equipment and staff shortages.

“We have an obligation to provide a safe and secure environment for students to get their education and so part of our belief in making this decision is to ensure for those students who want to be face-to-face that they have a safe environment,” said Graydon Stanley, vice president for student services. “And for our employees, a mask mandate makes sense.”

Alex Harris, chair of NIC’s Rebounds Committee, which gathers information from health officials and provides recommendations to the president’s cabinet, said the decision was based on information from Panhandle Health, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Kootenai Health.

Harris said the prediction from Health and Welfare that Idaho could see 30,000 new COVID-19 cases per week by mid-October, mixed with the school’s commitment to provide the best access to education possible, which a lot of students feel is in person, helped drive the decision.

NIC joins a majority of Idaho’s public colleges and universities including Boise State University, University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College with the mandate. Stanley said putting in place these safety precautions gives them the ability to offer a safe environment for students to have in-person classes.

“It makes sense, like I'm OK with it,” NIC student Emily McLeod said Thursday. “I'm not worried. I wear it to respect others, and if they ask I don't really mind.”

Stanley said the length of the mandate remains indefinite as NIC will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation.

“I thought we were over (masks) already since you know it's 2021,” said Jimmy Ayllon, an incoming student from McCall. “But if it's required, then you just got to do it.”

NIC student Max Knight said he disagrees with the mandate. He said wearing a mask is a health risk to some students, can be unsanitary and there's a vaccine out.

“I think it’s kind of stupid … if they're still going to require students who are vaccinated to wear masks,” Knight said. “I think it should be one of those things where if a student has already been vaccinated, or something like that, I feel like you should have the option not to wear the mask.”

NIC has had 343 self-reported COVID-19 cases since July 2020, including three cases this week.

Several attempts by The Press seeking comment from Todd Banducci, chair of the NIC Board of Trustees, were unsuccessful.

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our news partner, click here.