A Dozen US Universities Reinstate Mask Policies as Covid-19 Cases Increase


Sristy Sharma
Updated on Apr 27, 2022 02:00 PM IST

US Colleges and Universities are reinstating indoor mask policies on campus after recording a surge in the number of new Covid-19 cases. Universities like Harvard are allowing professors to decide their own classroom rules. 

A Dozen US Universities Reinstate Mask Policies as Covid-19 Cases Increase

Latest Update (April 27, 2022): A dozen US universities and colleges, in cities like New York, and Washington D.C., among others, have reinstated indoor mask policies amid the rise in Covid-19 cases. Institutions cited Omicron BA.2 subvariant, which is currently the dominant strain in the US, as more contagious and the reason behind the reinstatement.

The decision is a contrast to the general environment of the country easing health restrictions. Last week, an appeal, made by the Biden administration for a federal mask mandate for planes and other public transit, was struck down by the US Florida State District Judge.

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Three universities in New York, the University of Rochester, Columbia University, and Barnard College, have reinstated indoor mask policies.

The average number of cases in NYC rose to 2,348 on April 18 from 2,027 in the previous week and fell to 1,565 recently. New York State, excluding NYC, recorded a rise of 4,029 cases on April 24 from 3,631 on April 18, which fell to 2,899 in the previous week. The states positivity rate rose to 8.97% on April 22, from 3.65% on April 1.

Kathy Hochul, New York Governor, stated that transportation masks mandates shall remain in place in accordance with state health department guidelines. Meanwhile, New York State and NYC have still not reinstated indoor mask mandates.

In Washington D.C., Howard Universityand American University reinstated mask mandates for the remaining Spring semester, exam period, and commencement.

Average number of new cases in D.C. decreased to 119 on April 18 from 293 in the past week. Positivity rate which rose to 5.44% on April 17 from 1.8% on April 1, dropped to 3.89% on April 22. D.C. Metro had made masks optional on buses, railways, and shared ride transit.

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Apart from schools in major cities some others including University of Connecticut, Bowdoin University, University of Pennsylvania, and Williams College, have also reinstated mask policies.

Philadelphia, the first major city to reinstate indoor mask mandates, scrapped them recently. Six Philadelphian schools, Thomas, Jefferson, Drexel, Temple, La Salle, and St. Josephs University, followed in and loosened their rules as well.

The reversal was followed by drop in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations. The average number of new cases dropped to 242, from 377 on April 14 and hospitalisations dropped to 65, from 82 on April 17.

US Policies have shifted from a one-size-fits-all approach to more localised and tailored approaches. They are now addressing to happenings of a particular locality than nationwide happenings.

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US colleges and universities have started reinstatingmask policies at their respective campuses again, due to the increase in Coronavirus outbreaks on campusin the last two weeks.

Universities issuing campus-wide mask mandates include American University, Columbia University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, John Hopkins University, and Rice University.

Recently, BA.2, an Omicron subvariant, has become dominant among the US Covid-19 cases. On April 10, 2022, an increase of 3% was recorded on the number of new Covid-19 cases,at over 31,000, as reported by the New York Times database.

The surge in the number of Covid-19 cases has been observed in the days following April 1, 2022.

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The universities have announced indoor mask mandates, with some allowing professors to remove masks while teaching.

Some universities are allowing vaccination status as waivers, however, most are asking students to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status.Students who are yet to get vaccinated are being asked to wear weak masks in indoor areas as well.

Some universities like Harvard University are asking professors to decide their own classroom rules.

BA.1 subvariant of Omicron had caused a surge in Covid-19 cases in winter. It was decided to put pandemic-related policies in place while living with the virus, rather than completely avoiding it.

Quarantine measuresand social distancing became norms rather than cancelling in-person attendance oncampus. As cases decreased, the precautions and mandates were also loosened, although public health experts criticized some actions.

The mandates were lifted about a month ago with the outbreak being more prominent among undergraduate students.

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The sharpest increases have been recorded in New York City and Washington DC. Some of the famous cases include prominent officials and Broadway stars. As the cases increased, Philadelphia became the first major city in the country to reinstate the indoor mask policy.

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Source: The New York Times

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