Skip to main content Skip to main content

Latest on Covid-19 and campus operations

COO Larry Sampler answers questions on masking courtesy, the Delta variant and vaccination rates.

By Larry Sampler, chief operating officer

July 15, 2021

Larry SamplerDear Roadrunners, 

During public-health emergencies such as the one presented by Covid-19, we talk a lot about rules and protocols in the effort to keep our communities safe. Today, however, before I share updated guidance and information, I’d like to start by encouraging everyone to double down on being kind, thoughtful, compassionate and patient as we all begin returning to some semblance of normal operations on campus and in our daily lives.   

People everywhere (regardless of their vaccination status) have different levels of comfort when it comes to the question of masking vs. unmasking and working in an environment of uncertainty regarding the vaccination status of those around them. We also have a wide variety of valid concerns about our personal safety and that of our families, particularly unvaccinated children, for example. With that in mind, I encourage all Roadrunners to always have a mask on hand so that, for example, if you’re visiting a colleague in their office or a small conference room and a respectful conversation about masking takes place, you’ll be able to honor their request. Masking is not a political statement; in situations like this, it is an opportunity to show respect for concerned colleagues. 

The Delta variant and mask-wearing 

Several of you have brought the recent World Health Organization recommendations around mask-wearing to our attention. Thank you for your vigilance and desire to keep our campus community safe and healthy. Let me begin by noting that if a person is more comfortable wearing a mask despite being fully vaccinated, they should feel free to do so. I am fully vaccinated and in good health, yet I will wear a mask if I’m going to be indoors mixing with large numbers of people I don’t know and whose vaccination status is unclear to me. With that said, I wanted to address a few related questions we’ve received.   

Q: Why do WHO guidelines on wearing masks differ from those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and what does MSU Denver follow?    

A: The CDC guidelines are based on the current state of the pandemic in the U.S., including strong evidence of vaccine efficacy and with approximately 50% of Americans fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, the WHO is setting guidelines for the entire world, which on the whole has much lower rates of vaccination than the U.S. Thus, in certain parts of the world, masking for everyone may in fact be prudent. That is not the situation here in Colorado, where 70% of adults have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. At MSU Denver, we will continue to adhere to the latest guidance from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the CDC and will integrate that guidance into our operational plans and those of the Auraria Higher Education Center.   

Q: How does the Delta variant impact mask-wearing?    

A: The Delta variant is real, and it does present challenges and concerns for health officials around the world. People who have not been vaccinated are the most at risk, and many of those falling ill with the virus this time around are younger people, which is why I am glad to see that vaccination rates in our area and among our faculty, staff and students are high and climbing. We will, however, continue to monitor the situation and latest guidance from local, state and national public-health officials.    

Q: So who has to wear a mask on campus?     

A: If you are not fully vaccinated – for whatever reason, and with or without an exemption – you are required to wear a mask when on campus. This is for your own safety and the safety of those around you. If you are fully vaccinated, you are not required to wear a mask, but you may certainly do so if you wish.  

Q: Should I ask my colleagues, staff and students if they are vaccinated?      

A: This is a situation that must be addressed on a case-by-case basis. If you feel uncomfortable working around a colleague or colleagues, you would in most cases best be served by addressing the issue with your supervisor. On the other hand, there is nothing inherently wrong with colleagues, on break for example, discussing vaccination status. Just know that you have no inherent right to know other employees’ vaccination status. Please be cognizant of your colleagues’ right to privacy and continue wearing a mask if required due to your vaccination status or if you feel it is warranted by the situation. 

Q: What if my team member is not adhering to the masking rules?       

A: If you are a supervisor of MSU Denver employees, you should have been informed regarding any of your direct reports who have requested and been granted an exemption. These individuals are required to wear masks while on campus. We expect you as supervisors to ensure that everyone on your team understands and complies with the rules and expectations regarding health and safety measures. 

If you as a supervisor notice an unvaccinated team member who is not complying with University guidance, please have a private conversation with the employee. It may be as simple as someone forgetting to mask up, or perhaps they are now vaccinated. Regardless, you as a supervisor have the right to know their vaccination status and the right to raise the issue of their noncompliance if they should be masked but are not.  

If an individual displays willful noncompliance with health and safety guidelines, rather than confronting that individual, we ask that you communicate your concerns to and provide the information needed to address the situation.    

MSU Denver vaccination rates 

As of Wednesday morning, 84% of the 9,992 members of the MSU Denver campus community (faculty, staff and students) who have responded to the vaccination survey are fully or partially vaccinated for Covid-19. 

Employees: 1,906/2,590 (73% response rate) 

  • 95% are fully or partially vaccinated.
  • 1% intend to be vaccinated by the start of the fall semester.
  • 4% are exempt.

Registered students: 6,556/12,656 (52% response rate) 

  • 82% are fully or partially vaccinated.
  • 4% intend to be vaccinated by the start of the fall semester.
  • 14% are exempt.

Unregistered students: 1,530/36,548 (4% response rate) 

  • 78% are fully or partially vaccinated.
  • 6% intend to be vaccinated by the start of the fall semester.
  • 16% are exempt.

As always, if you have questions or concerns about our Safe Return to Campus, please reach out through this form or via email at, 

Larry Sampler 

Vice president for Administration, Finance and Facilities and chief operating officer 

Topics: Administration, Health, Safety

Edit this page