COVID-19 flares: Mask mandates reintroduced to college campuses

COVID-19 has disrupted the final weeks of college school year.

24 April 2022 Sunday 09:51
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COVID-19 flares: Mask mandates reintroduced to college campuses

Universities have brought back mask mandates and switched to online classes. Large gatherings were also reduced in response to coronavirus epidemics.

A range of virus measures have been reimposed by colleges in Washington, D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Texas, and Texas. Howard University has moved to remote learning amid an increase in cases in Washington, D.C.

This marks the third consecutive academic year that has been shattered by COVID-19. Soon-to-be seniors will not have a normal college experience.

"It was last summer that everyone was saying, 'Oh! This is it. Nina Heller, a junior at American University, Washington D.C., said that administrators returned a mask mandate a month after it was lifted. "And then that didn’t happen. Now we’re back at summer, and there’s kind of no ending."

"The pandemic remains with us"

In the wake of spring break, Mandates were widely canceled as the number of cases dropped due to a winter surge that was fueled by the micron variant. However, several Northeast cities have experienced an increase in hospitalizations and cases in recent weeks as the BA.2 variant of the omicron variation continues to spread rapidly throughout the U.S.

"As much we wish to move on and believe that the pandemic has passed, and I think it would be nice for us all to think that that would happen at this time, it's wishful believing," stated Anita Barkin (co-chair) of the COVID-19 taskforce for the American College Health Association. "The pandemic remains with us."

COVID-19 had been so relaxed at Williams College, that professors could decide whether or not to require masks in classes last week. It reinstated the indoor mask mandate just days later as more cases were being filed.

"I think students feel like their friends are dropping like flies," stated junior Kitt Urdang. She's seen half a dozen of her friends test positive in the last few days. "There has been more uncertainty on campus than ever since COVID."

Philadelphia has recently restored its mask mandate. Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania will now require them to start Monday. The mandate was lifted by the city on Thursday but the colleges have not made any changes.

A quiet campus

The main campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., affectionately called "The Hilltop" among students and alumni, was quiet this week, as many students took classes and exams at home. As rising virus numbers prompt administrators to shift to online education, the academic year is drawing to a close.

In April, the city's COVID infection rate more than doubled. American University, Georgetown University, and George Washington University have also reinstated their indoor mask mandates. Howard is the only university that has abandoned in-person instruction. Final exams for most students will begin next week. The spring semester concludes Friday. Administrators promised to provide an update about what this means for May 7th's commencement ceremony.

Lia DeGroot, a George Washington senior, said that she doesn't believe people are unhappy wearing masks. She never took off her mask in the one week after the mandate was lifted. "Of all the things that the pandemic disrupted in the world, I think wearing masks, you know?, is a small thing to do. That's the mindset I believe a lot students have.

Steady rise in cases

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland announced this month that all undergraduate students would be tested twice weekly from Friday to Friday. The university noted a sharp rise in the number of cases. Masks will be required in all areas, not just classrooms.

Rice University in Houston announced that students would be allowed to wear masks again in classrooms earlier this month, in response to an increase in campus cases. Large college parties were also canceled.

New Mexico State University decided to take a different approach and announced Monday that all campus students must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Tuesday, July 1. This will eliminate the possibility of having weekly tests.

Syracuse University in New York, one of few counties still identified as having high spread by the CDC, is the home of this university. It announced Monday that they would require masks in classrooms.

J. Michael Haynie is the school's vice-chancellor for strategic initiatives, innovation and innovation. He wrote that it was important to take reasonable steps to reduce the impact of COVID infection. Finals and commencement are fast approaching.

Similar approaches were taken by the University of Rochester, University of Connecticut, Bowdoin College, University of Maine and Columbia University in New York City. Columbia University was one of many to note that surveillance testing programs found more cases.

Many students tried to hide their grumbling, but it was becoming more apparent.

Neeraj Sudhakar, Columbia graduate student in financial engineering, said that "we're at the point where it's tired of masks." "We have probably a 99% vaccine rate. At this point, I believe we need to just move on with the pandemic. We should treat it as an endemic rather that going back to the way we did the past two years."

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