The St. Joseph mask mandate ends days before the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to those in higher education, including faculty and educators at Missouri Western.

 “It's my duty to my fellow citizens to not put them at risk,” Assistant Professor of Communication Dr. Jennifer Jackson said. “I'll do what I have to do to make sure everyone else is safe.” 

Under Phase 2, the vaccine will be administered to those helping to accelerate equitable economic growth. Higher education falls under this category but is limited to educators and faculty, not including Missouri Western students.

Under Phase 1, K-12 educators had the vaccine readily available to them. Jackson was not included in Phase 1 but in Phase 2 due to the nature of her job. Although Jackson has already received her shot, she notes the disparities in the situation.

“If the priority is for education, all educators, not just some of them, should have been on that list,” Jackson said.

The beginning of the Phase 2 vaccine roll-outs comes as St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray ends the mandatory mask mandate after a City Council vote of 5-4. This risky decision sparked emotions in some Griffons. 

“I wish they would have kept it longer,” Missouri Western senior Allison Hildebrand said. “I wish they would have gotten farther into not needing them before they got rid of them.” 

Jackson will continue using personal protective equipment, more commonly referred to as PPE, despite the county putting an end to the mask mandate.

“The fact that I’m vaccinated protects me, but it doesn’t protect other people,” Jackson said.

Missouri Western senior Ryleigh Reagan is on the edge between relief and worrisome.

“I'm glad that we have that sense of freedom back,” Reagan said. “At the same time, it scares me that we're going to end up right where we were.” 

Despite the mask mandate no longer being in effect in St. Joseph, masks are still required to be worn on campus. This proves to be an easy decision to Hildebrand, who says she will keep wearing her mask at all times while in public.

Additionally, stores and businesses in the community can decide whether to enforce their own mask policies, including Reagan’s place of work. 

Many Missouri Western students will have to wait until Phase 3 begins on April 9. Reagan falls into this category.

“I am actually looking to get the vaccine, I have filled out forms for it,” Reagan said. “I'm just looking for a location near here.”

She, along with many others, have been anxiously waiting since December 11, 2020 when the first vaccine to prevent COVID-19 was approved by the Federal Drug Administration. 

“I work in retail, so getting that shot will help settle any fears that I have with getting it but also giving it to other people,” Reagan said. 

Despite COVID-19 still appearing in the United States, Hildebrand’s fears have quelled after getting both shots of the vaccine, but she notes that not everybody has that privilege.

“It doesn't mean that I still can't get somebody else sick,” Hildebrand said.

Not only does Jackson feel better after receiving the vaccine, but her family, who worries about her during the 12 hour drive, does as well.

“Being vaccinated and being able to feel comfortable flying again is exciting,” Jackson said.

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