On March 3, President Stanley announced in a community-wide email that Michigan State University’s mask mandate would be lifted in most indoor settings on campus, excluding classes and labs, on the following Sunday, March 6.
The removal comes in the wake of several weeks of downtrends for COVID cases at MSU, with the week of the announcement having only 20 positive cases. This is a drastic difference from the 250 positive cases during the first week of the semester. These trends are consistent with the national trends.
Citing this downward slope in cases, most states opted to repeal their mask mandates in February, but schools, especially higher-education, have been slow to follow.
Kinesiology freshman Christian Lund says that he was surprised by the email announcing the mandate lift, but also felt excited, despite his confusion about why it was not a full removal.
“It's exciting, somewhat going back to normal,” Lund said. “The one thing I don't really get about it is why we need them for the sporting events, like why we don't need them and why we need them for classes when the sporting events are more crowded and longer than classes.”
Other students also shared this confusion and questioned the point of masks in class if they are already removed almost everywhere else.
“I think that (requiring masks in class) is kind of weird because classes are people you see consistently but, then there's the dining hall, and it's like anyone can be there any time,” psychology sophomore Al Rajala said. “So, I feel like they kind of maybe made the wrong choice about half and half. I was like ‘I get it,’but also ‘What is going on?’”
Political science-pre law freshman Dante Simmons agrees with Rajala.
“I do think it is kind of counterintuitive because it kind of defeats the purpose of like we can all walk in the hallway and then all put it on when we file into a class and then as soon as we walk out the doors, we can take them off,” Simmons said. “It’s kind of defeating the purpose, but I do get it because they'll be in one stationary spot. So, I mean like if they feel like it is the most appropriate thing to do then I would like to do it but, I feel like there's other ways to kind of be less counterproductive.”
When the initial mask mandate removal was announced, most students were leaving campus for spring break and therefore, would not be able to experience the lift until a week later. Now, a week after classes have resumed, students are settling into a new way of life at MSU.
Anthropology sophomore Allison Ahrens says that although she usually wears her mask, it is nice not having it required.
“It’s kind of nice getting to take it off every once in a while,” Ahrens said. “I usually have it on, but just being able to pull it down every once in a while is kind of nice, going upstairs and things like that, it’s nice.”
Accounting freshman and on-campus employee Jack Fitzgerald says that the removal hasn’t made much of a difference for him as a student nor as a worker.
“I haven't really felt much of a difference,” Fitzgerald said. “I feel like it's nice that people are able to choose whether or not they want to (wear a mask), and I think that there's a lot of respect on this campus for people that do choose and people who don't choose so, that's nice. I haven't really heard of anyone being difficult and for work especially, I don't really see much of the difference. It’s still normal.”
But for other students, like human biology freshman Emily Wozbut, the mask mandate removal means decreased safety on campus.
“I feel unsafe just because I know so many people who go to bars and stuff without masks,” Wozbut said in a text. “Now that it’s not required across most places on campus, I could easily get an infection from there.”
The easing of COVID precautions have led Americans to wonder whether they will be at risk for yet another surge and have also led to questions about the safety of immunocompromised citizens.
With even more emerging variants such as BA.2, whether America will finally be able to return to pre-pandemic life or whether America is in for yet another round of precautions, including reinstatement of masks, is uncertain.
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