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Several universities across the country have reinstated facemask mandates in closed spaces within their campuses, citing a “significant increase” in COVID cases. Some experts consider the measures unnecessary.
Georgetown University was among the first to announce the reimposition of mandatory facemask use. On April 6, the institution issued a statement warning of the reinstatement of the mandate given a “previously unseen increase” among the student body and workers, despite having a 98% vaccination rate.
“We are taking these steps in response to a significant increase in COVID-19 cases on the Main and Medical Center campuses this week, particularly among undergraduate students,” the statement said. “We have not seen a comparable increase in cases at the Law Center campus. Fortunately, with the vast majority of our community up to date on vaccinations, we are not seeing cases involving serious illness.”
Rice University in Houston, Texas, also reinstated the facemask mandate, making its use mandatory in classrooms except for professors.
“Effective immediately, everyone in a classroom is required to wear masks regardless of immunization status, except for instructors while lecturing,” read the Rice statement. “It also encouraged -but did not require- everyone to carry masks at all times on campus and use their best judgment on when it’ s appropriate to wear a mask.”
Rice’s missive clarifies that unvaccinated individuals will be required to wear masks throughout campus at all times.
Similarly, Columbia University announced on April 10 that it would reinstate the mandatory use of “non-cloth masks” in all classrooms, a measure it is taking out of “an abundance of caution.”
“Based on the current situation and out of an abundance of caution, we will require the use of non-cloth masks in classrooms beginning Monday morning, April 11, 2022. This mandatory mask policy applies only to classrooms and is expected to remain in effect for the remaining few weeks of our spring semester,” the statement said.
Johns Hopkins University did not eliminate the mandatory use of masks entirely. “Masks remain mandatory in classrooms, laboratory, studio classrooms, and other spaces where instruction takes place,” reads its biosafety policy. “Those who have been granted exemptions from the university’s vaccination mandate are still required to wear masks indoors.”
However, an update visible on a tab from its website states: “Masks are required inside all of our care facilities. We are vaccinating all eligible patients.”
At American University, according to an April 12 update, facemasks are mandatory “in all campus buildings, except when people are alone in private offices, inside dorm rooms with roommates or when actively eating or drinking.”
“As a general philosophy, I’m against mask mandates at this time,” Siegel said. “The time for mask mandates is over.” The specialist clarified that a mask mandate would be “acceptable” under specific conditions such as a “substantial” increase in COVID-19 infections, but is not justifiable at universities with such high vaccination rates.