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The University of Oregon requires that a mask must be worn inside all buildings on campus, in accordance with Oregon’s Governor mandates. The University of Oregon returned to in-person classes this fall after four consecutive terms of online instruction. (Ian Enger/Emerald)

The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation has requested that the University of Oregon take more stringent measures against the spread of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant in a letter sent to UO’s executive vice provost.

GTFF is asking for UO to temporarily move classes online for two weeks, or until cases decrease to a reasonable level. They are also asking for K95/KN95 masks to be required and administered to UO students, staff and faculty.

The letter includes statistics from UO’s COVID Case Tracker which shows 154 new cases in the past week, stating, “UO’s rapidly increasing cases are a public health concern.”

The letter compares the efficiency of K95/KN95 masks to cloth and surgical masks in terms of protecting against COVID-19 transmission. “These masks have also shown to be less effective at preventing the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant in particular,” it states in regards to cloth and surgical masks. “This poses a serious health risk for not only GTFF members, but also the entire campus.”

On December 20, UO announced that it will require all campus community members — including students, staff and faculty — to receive a COVID-19 booster shot by January 31.

GTTF said that while the UO’s booster shot requirement was heartening, the January 31 deadline will create unsafe conditions for the first four weeks of Winter term.

“We believe temporarily pivoting to online instruction and providing masks would help keep our university safe.”

GTFF said it would be willing to meet with UO to discuss the proposals further.