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We Still Need Masks on Campus

by Purnasree Saha

In New Jersey, coronavirus (COVID-19) omicron cases have been declining for months. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Health (CDC) and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy gave schools the option of lifting the mask mandate starting on March 7, 2022.

Even though Murphy gave all New Jersey school systems the option of going maskless, Montclair State University continues to have a mask policy on campus. This makes sense due to the high number of students on campus, how many students commute to and from outside environments and the large number of student gatherings on campus. All of these things could create more exposure to COVID-19 at the university.

It is for the best that Montclair State’s mask policy remains in place for students and faculty members who are vaccinated or unvaccinated. Since classrooms are at capacity, it is hard to maintain social distancing, so this is warranted.

Students who are commuting to campus may face a higher risk, and the mask mandate ensures they don’t bring COVID-19 home with them. They might have some members of their family who are not fully vaccinated or have underlying conditions like diabetes or heart disease, which makes them vulnerable. Some students may also have siblings who are too young to be vaccinated and may become infected with COVID-19.

Commuters who often take public transportation are at risk as well. Trains and buses can be places full of unknown people who may be sick or unvaccinated.

Students who are living on campus like to gather and socialize with friends. Partying in a large group might cause cases to increase. Since there has been a steady stream of events occurring on campus, it is especially important that all participants continue to wear masks due to the higher risk of catching COVID-19 during a large gathering.

During spring break, many students had the opportunity to party even more in the city or in clubs.

Traveling was also another activity Montclair State students took part in during their spring break. In several states and countries, masks were not required, so there was still a risk of getting COVID-19. Plus, as previously mentioned, the people around you who are traveling could be unvaccinated, sick or asymptomatic.

According to an article by CNBC, Murphy said the state’s school mask mandate will hopefully remain a policy of the past. But if cases increase again in New Jersey, all private and public colleges should require students to wear masks. In some counties where there are large numbers of hospitalizations and severe disease, masks should continue to be worn in indoor places.

Partially as a result of the spread of the omicron and delta variants, the pace of COVID-19 deaths across the country accelerated throughout the fall and winter. In mid-December, deaths reached 800,000 and then after 11 weeks, 100,000 more people died. As omicron surged, millions of Americans were out sick from work.

Employees should be held to the same standard as students; that is, they should wear masks in groups, especially considering most of their time is spent around each other as well as students.

Montclair State decided to offer in-person courses for the fall and spring semester with the proof of students’ and faculty members’ vaccination and now booster records. Keeping the masks on throughout campus will reduce the spread of the coronavirus and not allow another variant to spread should it materialize.

For safety’s sake, students and faculty members should still have to keep their masks on during indoor settings.

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