Brooke Hurley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As we face yet another year of the global pandemic, the Ursinus community continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, and figuring out how to respond. The Ursinus Task Force that was created at the start of the pandemic in March of 2020 has continued to develop guidelines to protect students, staff, and faculty on campus as well as the surrounding community.
Now, with a decrease of infection rates in the local area, Montgomery County has lifted its mask mandate in all areas accessible to the public. “The decision follows new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as a rapid decline in new COVID-19 cases and high rates of vaccination. Nearly 100% of County residents over the age of 65 are vaccinated, and 95.4% of those ages 5 and older are.” Maggie Mancini from Philly Voice.
As of Monday March 21, the mandatory mask mandate on campus was officially lifted as well. The task force came to the decision after the previous week of testing rates and students’ vaccination status. “To reach the level specified by the CDC, we need to have four or fewer positive student cases out of testing of the full student body,” stated Mark Schneider, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dean of Ursinus, and a member of the Ursinus Task Force.
Given that the option to wear masks is now a reality, on-campus testing is still required.
Dean Schneider discussed in more detail the guidelines around lifting the mask mandate. “There will be some classes, labs, or studios in which for a variety of reasons the faculty member will choose to maintain masking for all students in that setting. The greater health risks in general are to faculty and staff, simply due to their age, so we need to provide that flexibility. The Dean of the College office will back faculty members completely if they choose that path. For other classes, masking will be optional for individuals, and I expect many will choose to continue to mask.”
Although some students and faculty expressed their fear, the Task Force reinforced their decision stating, “fortunately, because of high rates of vaccination and boosting, the likelihood of severe health consequences from COVID is dramatically reduced.” On the other hand, many students are excited to feel a sense of life from before COVID. “I’m happy that we are finally moving away from masks. I think it’s a good idea to let students decide if they want to put on a mask or not during class,” exclaimed Dan Icaza, a senior who has dealt with the effects of COVID guidelines for nearly half his college career.
Looking forward to Fall of 2022, the Task Force cannot predict what COVID will bring. Whether it be higher infection rates or new variants, they are prepared to respond to whatever challenges may arise. As of right now, the Task Force, and Ursinus students, are looking forward to a semester that feels “back to normal.”