Spring is in the air in East Lansing, and Grand River Avenue looks vastly different than it did a year ago.
As mask mandates are rescinded and the weather is beginning to break, some shop employees in downtown East Lansing have noticed a change in the student population's mask-wearing habits.
“I noticed pretty much as soon as (Michigan State University) lifted the mask mandate in dorms and all that, pretty much immediately … (mask wearing) increased significantly,” Quark! employee Levi Jaroszewicz said. “Well, I would say more people still have a mask when they come in and some don’t, but they are definitely more noticeably ones that don’t.”
As of March 6, MSU only requires masks to be worn in classrooms and research labs. The choice of easing mandates on campus is due to the downward trend of COVID-19 cases in Ingham County: as of the week of Mar. 22, there are currently 156 new cases with three in the Intensive Care Unit, according to the Ingham County Health Department.
Catching up with classmates at Peanut Barrel to shop for hammocks that can be strung up beside the Red Cedar River to study in peace, the city is buzzing with activity of students eager to enjoy the warmer weather.
For Moosejaw employee Leah Ring, masking hasn’t been a requirement at Moosejaw since October 2021. She said the amount of people coming into the store masked or unmasked is negligible.
“For the most part, we don’t have many students come in – we have a lot of regulars and locals that come in a lot,” Ring said. “They, on occasion, do and don’t (wear masks). It’s kind of a mix, but mostly they don’t wear masks."
While some businesses do not have a strict policy on masking, store owners and front shopkeepers have their own comfort levels when addressing shoppers without masks, Jaroszewicz said.
“I do feel comfortable even though the amount of people not wearing masks has increased slightly,” Jaroszewicz said. “Mostly because this is a very science-oriented store, and most of the people who come in here are already pretty involved in the scientific community and aside from that, you have to be vaccinated to go to MSU at all. So, most of the people in this area are going to be safer.”
Booster shots have been required at MSU since the first two weeks of the spring semester to protect against new strains of COVID-19, as the booster has been proved to be effective in defending the immune system. More than 76% of MSU's student body has been vaccinated as of Feb. 22.
“I know that MSU requires vaccination statuses, so that might also play a factor,” Ring said. “I know that’s why I’m not wearing a mask, it’s because I am fully vaccinated and boosted, so I feel pretty confident that the people who come in here are also vaccinated to a degree and if they aren’t, that they would wear a mask.”
Some shops that never had a masking requirement, like Insomnia Cookies, have not noticed a change in masking levels.
“Since we never really had a requirement to wear masks in here, I feel like we’re seeing the same amount of people wearing masks,” Insomnia Cookies employee Eva Fredricks said. “I do think that most of the younger people are still wearing them but … some people wear them, some don’t."
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