Kylie McGovern, Editor
Header Image: La Salle
On March 2, Interim President Tim O’Shaughnessy responded to the recently revised city mask guidelines explaining that, although the Philadelphia Department of Public Health issued an adjustment to its indoor masking policy, La Salle’s COVID-19 response team reviewed these revised public health guidelines and waited to update the campus community regarding any potential policy changes. Until that new update, the current indoor masking policy remained in effect. O’Shaughnessy continued to encourage COVID-19 boosters and vaccines because they remain the greatest tools for reducing severe illness in our community and returning to a more active campus life.
On March 4, just days after the original update, O’Shaughnessy wrote to the La Salle community again to announce that “beginning Monday, March 7, La Salle University will transition to recommending, but not requiring, that masks be worn indoors. Everyone must continue to carry an appropriate mask with them at all times.” This changing mask policy follows the guidance of federal and local health agencies and was decided with the counsel of La Salle’s COVID-19 response team.
There are still circumstances where masks will be required like on the University shuttle, in clinical healthcare settings and in the COVID-19 testing center. In addition, masks are required to be held in the event that an individual asks others to be masked in their presence. If asked to mask up, it is recommended students follow the request.
During the upcoming spring break (March 12–20), La Salle will likely see a significant portion of our community travel away from campus. Therefore, masks will be required for the five-day period immediately following the University’s spring break, the week of March 21–25, as a preventative strategy. O’Shaughnessy does, however, explain that “masks have helped limit the spread of COVID-19. If necessary, we will not hesitate to reinstitute a mask mandate in the event that we experience significantly increased case counts on campus or in the region.”
As for other universities in the area and their mask mandates, many of these schools are on spring break. But, Temple University’s Senior Director of Health Services, Mark Denys, explained that “out of an abundance of caution, the university will still require the use of masks inside buildings when we return to campus next week.” Furthermore, Saint Joseph’s University’s president Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., explained on March 2 that “Given declining numbers regionally and nationally, our very high community vaccination rate and updated guidance from the CDC, City of Philadelphia and Montgomery County, the University will no longer require masks be worn indoors in all shared or common spaces at all times. Beginning tomorrow, March 3, masks will be optional on campus.” Drexel University decided that “despite loosened local mask ordinances, Drexel’s indoor mask requirement will continue at least through the end of winter term (through March 19, 2022) while we assess community needs moving forward. Masks are also still required on public transit throughout Philadelphia.”
In speaking to a few students about the new mask guidelines, the Collegian’s Managing Editor David O’Brien kept his response simple, saying, “I’m glad we don’t have to wear them anymore,” but junior biology student Luke Szyszkiewicz explained that he “doesn’t like how confusing the different rules are between different professors and the university.”The Collegian’s Editor-in-Chief Jake Eiseman says, “I think dropping the mask guidelines on campus is a positive move. It’s in accordance with the CDC’s and the city’s recommendations and cases have been low on campus for months now. Giving people the option to take the mask off should be seen as a good thing overall, but there are bound to be a few bad apples. Many people will continue to wear the mask regardless, and some will remove them when they feel it is safe, but some will never wear a mask again even when expressing symptoms, and that is my main concern.”
Editor’s Note: Although I am personally excited that we no longer have to wear masks because our cases are quite low, I think that these conditions should only prevail with high vaccination rates and requirements. I think that taking away the masks is a good decision for now and likely the remainder of the semester, but I hope the university continues to closely moderate cases and surges so that the campus’s health remains a top priority.