Montclair State University updated its mask policy on August 13 as coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in New Jersey rise and the delta variant continues to spread.
Students, staff, faculty, contractors and visitors will be required to wear masks indoors (except when alone in a private room), outdoors in crowded settings and in all university vehicles.
Masks can be removed when eating or drinking, as long as social distancing can be maintained.
Andrew Mees, Montclair State’s media relations director, explained the university’s reasoning behind the decision.
“A growing body of evidence indicates wearing a face mask is one of the most effective strategies for reducing the spread of COVID-19,” Mees said. “To protect the health of the campus community, the university has established guidelines for the wearing of face masks which reflect the guidance of federal and state public health authorities as well as our on-campus experts.”
Helena Van Vliet, a junior nursing major, said it is disappointing to hear that masks will be required, but understands that the school is following state guidance.
“I have mixed feelings about the mask mandate coming back on campus,” Van Vliet said. “Firstly, I understand that the school has to be in line with the state’s rules. However, after being forced to be vaccinated with the promise of not needing to wear a mask, it’s disappointing to say the least.”
Van Vliet also said the new mask mandate makes her feel like the university does not trust the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Everyone, vaccinated or not, has to wear masks now,” Van Vliet said. “It used to be that people who got religious or medical exemptions had to wear masks but now it’s everyone. There are no guarantees about anything and honestly, the fact that they are requiring masks despite the fact that most of us are vaccinated now makes me feel like they don’t trust the vaccine.”
As of August 19, 85.4% of students registered for on-campus classes are fully vaccinated and 4.6% are partially vaccinated. A little under 7% of students have obtained medical or religious exemptions.
Students have until August 27 to report proof of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Students who do not comply will be deregistered from fall classes.
Hailey Mayewski, a junior journalism major, said she does not mind wearing a mask if it helps to ensure a safe return to campus.
“Honestly, I don’t mind the masks, I’m just happy to be back in-person,” Mayewski said. “Yes, I would love to say goodbye to the facial coverings, but I am happy to do whatever the school feels will ensure safety for everyone.”
Bryanna Rosario, a junior English major, said the masks can help prevent the university from having to shut down and return to online learning again, which is something many students struggled with.
“I understand their change to have students wear the mask whether they’re vaccinated or not because it’s better to wear a mask than shut down again,” Rosario said. “I know being online was hard for a lot of people so staying in-person with masks is a step to help those who struggled with all online classes.”
Megan Kick, a junior English major, said the updated mask policy is a smart decision.
“I think that Montclair State is really smart to require masks on campus,” Kick said. “Given that COVID-19 cases are still on the rise and students want to get back to school safely, I think this is a good way to help keep everyone safe and get back to some in-person learning.”
Kick shared that she hopes this decision will lead to a future without masks and COVID-19.
“My hope is that this decision will keep more people safe and healthy on campus and lead to a mask-less (and COVID-less) semester in the near future,” Kick said.