NCCC campuses open to visitors, mask mandate lifted

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

Neosho County Community College campuses are open to visitors and the mask mandate has been lifted.

Dr. Brian Inbody, NCCC President, said the college is moving to Level 4 on its coronavirus protocol effective immediately. Level 4 includes removing the mask requirement, moving to no masks for those who are fully vaccinated, and masks recommended, but not required, for those who choose to not to be vaccinated.

The Ottawa campus of Neosho County Community College is open to visitors and the mask mandate has been lifted as the college implemented level 4 of its coronavirus protocols.

“We have not had an active positive case on either campus in about 10 weeks,” Inbody said. “This is a far cry from fall when we had over 20 cases and nearly 100 people in self-isolation that we were tracking.”

Vaccination rates of the employees also played a role in the decision to change the protocol.

Neosho County Community College advocates for people to receive the COVID-19 shot

“We are up to 61% vaccinated, and we hope to get that number even higher before fall classes start,” Inbody said. “We are well on our way.”

Level 4 protocol removes the need to socially distance in most incidences. Class and room occupancy maximums will return to pre-COVID levels, and “stand here” signs will be removed. Also found in Level 4 is the return of all outside groups and visitors to campus, including hosting civic clubs such as Rotary and Kiwanis. It also means a return to Thursday Senior Lunch this fall, a tradition where, through Great Western Dining, the college provides lunch for senior citizens at a reduced rate.

“It will be very exciting to see our Thursday lunch crowd back on campus in the fall,” Inbody said. “I have greatly missed saying hello to them each week.”

Travel restrictions for the fully vaccinated have been removed as well. However, travel by unvaccinated people to and from areas considered to be a risk by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) will still require self-isolation, which could include international travel and travel to states that are seeing a surge in active positive cases.

Athletic events and their COVID-19 protocols are set by the KJCCC. The conference is in process of creating their fall protocol plan which will include guidance as to fan participation and coronavirus protections for athletes and spectators. The plan should be released by the end of summer before competitions begin.

Inbody warned that this change might be temporary.

“When creating a battle plan those in the military often say, ‘the enemy gets a vote too,’” he said. “While the active positive cases in the service area and at the college look great right now, with the significant numbers of those 18-24 across the country and those in the service area who are not yet vaccinated, we could easily see a fall or winter surge of cases again, like in 2020. All those Level 3 signs requiring masks and limiting visitors are in storage. They might have to come back if the virus rages again. I sure hope not.”

Inbody believes vaccination against COVID-19 is the key to remaining in Level 4 and beyond,

“We have seen a great start in the area and on campus for those who have been vaccinated,” he said. “The college recommends that everyone consider being vaccinated. That’s the best path forward for putting this pandemic behind us and returning to normalcy, which is what we all want.”

The full Level 4 protocol as well as the Summer and Fall Guide for Neosho Panthers can be found on the NCCC website.