Mask Mandate Update: after two years, CSUMB loosens mask requirements

After a year and a half of online school, followed by a year of mandated mask-wearing, California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) has updated its mask policy.

On Sept. 7, CSUMB President Vanya Quiñones sent out an email to students, faculty, and staff announcing the campus would move to be mask-friendly starting on Monday, Sept. 12. This means anyone who wishes to wear a mask is encouraged to do so, but it will no longer be required in most indoor spaces. 

Masking will still be required when someone is COVID-19 positive, has COVID-19 symptoms and is living in student housing, or if someone is exposed to COVID-19, awaiting test results, or is fulfilling an isolation period.

Additionally, in any place where official signs state you must wear a mask, or while visiting campus health care settings, you will be required to wear a mask.

The mask policy update has received mixed reactions across the CSUMB community. Some are excited, but others are anxious about the policy change. 

Fourth-year Barrett Reinhard welcomed the change eagerly. 

“I am happy about it,” Reinhard said. “I know many people are worried about it, but it’s been three years. COVID is now endemic and with three booster shots, I think people shouldn’t be that worried about it anymore. I think it’s still smart to wear a mask and stay home when sick, but wearing it permanently is unnecessary at this point.”

Fellow fourth-year Matthew Lencioni shared a similar sentiment with Reinhard and was excited about the change. 

“The change is a breath of fresh air,” Lencioni exclaimed. “Switching to a mask-friendly campus was long overdue; I’m glad they finally lifted the requirement. I’ll finally be able to walk into a building and not have my glasses fog up instantly!”

Others were having mixed reactions to the news and were nervous about COVID-19 spreading or spreading it themselves. 

“I’m not sure what to think yet,” said third-year Katarina Cerda. “I will still be wearing a mask indoors on campus and in large crowds. I don’t want to get sick, and I also have roommates I live with who I don’t want to get sick.”

Fourth-year Anthony Lopez-Zamora shared an opinion similar to Cerda and was a bit nervous about the change in policy, but understood the change. 

“I personally like having masks inside. Outside it’s whatever, we’re all far apart. But then again, I don’t really mind that they want to uplift it,” he said. “It’s gonna be different. I mean, I’m pretty sure we’ve all gotten used to it when it comes to things like going grocery shopping and nobody wearing masks, going outside, being with friends and nobody has a mask. Since we’re already well adjusted, we might as well just take it off. Why not? Go back to normal.” 

Humanities and Communication Chair Sam Robinson expressed concern for immunocompromised individuals and those who came back to in-person classes assuming the requirements would continue. 

“I believe most faculty members and students support this move. I don’t know where most of the staff stand on it,” said Robinson.

“I believe the key issues now are about the campus following policy and processes related to CFA, and its own committees such as the Public Health Committee,” she continued. “We also need to make sure all students and faculty feel safe in the classroom. I hope that those who need an accommodation to keep a mask requirement due to health issues will be able to do so.”

Communication Design Professor Amir Attia also shared his thoughts on the updated policy.

“I think giving the flexibility above masks is good, but I think it’s a big decision for everyone. It’s your decision whether to wear a mask or not and this decision might impact others, if you are sick,” said Attia. “Even though I feel comfortable with this decision, I still think that it’s the responsibility of each person to make the decision and to make sure they are safe and others are safe.”

While the on-campus infection rate has remained extremely low, President Quiñones reminds the campus community to still be prepared to return to wearing masks indoors if campus conditions worsen or the Monterey County updates health and safety recommendations.

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