AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – Auburn University students are heading back to the classroom this morning. Anyone vaccinated or unvaccinated, who are in university buildings or on university transportation, including Tiger Transit, will need to wear a mask or face covering.

With the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, Auburn University President Dr. Jay Gogue said the mandate comes after recommendations and information from the Centers for Disease Control, State health officers and other medical officials.

“It’s one of those things in my mind, it’s almost day by day in terms of where we are, what guidance we get from the CDC, what guidance we get from the state public health officer and the state,” said Dr. Gogue. “So at this point we thought it was prudent to go ahead for indoor space based on the recommendation from our medical people and the advice we saw that require the masks for both unvaccinated as well as vaccinated students.”

While the University will be requiring masks for anyone inside of university buildings and on university transportation, Executive Vice President General Ron Burgess said as of now, there is no intention to change instructional or operational plans for the upcoming semester.

“But at the same time provide a safe and secure environment for our students and for our staff, faculty and employees, so all of that goes into the mix,” said General Burgess. “And so as I jokingly say at 9:05 here on Friday morning the 13th of August, what we just said is ground truth. But this variant and this COVID we need to be agile and adapt to it.”

With a class of almost 5,200 incoming freshman Dr. Gogue and General Burgess said the safety of their students, faculty and staff is imperative while still being dedicated to higher education and learning.

“We feel fortunate since COVID started we have not lost a single student to COVID so at least what we tried in the past seemed to work,” said Dr. Gogue. “And that was trying to be as prudent as we could, as safe as we could, while still carrying out the mission of the university.”

Dr. Gogue said the University received 27,000 applications and with about 5,200 incoming freshman he said this is the most diverse class the University has seen in some of it’s more recent years.

Despite having to mask up the President and Executive Vice President said they’re excited to share the Auburn experience with incoming freshman and returning students.

“This is Auburn and the student experience is key and so we’ve got 5200 new freshman that want to experience that, in addition to the other 26000, 27000 undergraduates that we have here and graduate students,” said General Burgess. “That student experience is so important and we want to do the best we can to ensure that every person coming on this campus does it safely, but also enjoys and gets to have the advantage of that Auburn experience.”