Mask policy enforcement waning as semester continues

By Grace Morris
Elm Staff Writer

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, masks were an effective method of preventing transmission. At the beginning of the fall semester, it was announced by the Washington College Contingency Planning Group that masks would be required in all shared indoor spaces on campus. As the semester continues, however, some campus locations are experiencing a decrease in student compliance with the policy.

Lately, I’ve encountered more and more students walking around without their masks on. Often, frustratingly, these same students are carrying a mask in their hand or wearing one beneath their chin.

This issue is catching the eye of other students on campus.

“When I go to get [food from] Martha’s [Kitchen] late at night, I see lots of students without their masks,” junior Shola Akinbobola said.

Regardless of this noticeable decrease in compliance, the College’s mask policies have not changed. Masks are still required in classrooms, in Hodson Dining Hall, and in hallways. In addition to this, WC continues to recommend that students wear masks when in residence halls.

As long as the Delta variant continues to rampage through the country and the transmission level in Kent County remains high, it is important to wear masks in public indoor spaces to prevent COVID-19 cases on campus.

“So far students have done a fabulous job of keeping transmission low,” Associate Professor of English Dr. Courtney Rydel said.

It has been six weeks since a positive test result occurred on campus. It is commendable that the WC community has managed to prevent transmission of COVID-19 so effectively thus far. WC students should continue to strive toward compliance in order to continue this positive trend.

Failing to adhere to mask requirements now threatens the progress that we worked so hard to make. Additionally, concerns about Thanksgiving Break will put more weight on mask policy compliance in the coming weeks.

“It concerns me that everybody is going to go home for Thanksgiving and be around relatives of unknown vaccination status and unknown caution. Let’s be real, even if our relatives say one thing, we don’t really know,” Dr. Rydel said.

People lie. It’s an unfortunate truth, but especially on a topic as nonsensically divided as COVID-19 response, it’s crucial to take this into consideration. A student that is vaccinated but asymptomatic may bring the virus back to campus and unknowingly transmit it to an immunocompromised peer who is unable to receive the vaccine.

Maintaining commitment to the mask policy will provide a crucial line of defense against a possible COVID-19 outbreak once students return to campus. However, declining interest in mask rules now indicates that students may not take masks as seriously as they should once they return for finals.

Enforcement is the key to addressing the mask issue on campus. Who exactly is in charge of enforcing College policy, though? The answer isn’t so cut and dry; it’s up to the entire community to remind one another when they’re violating mask policies.

So far this semester, however, I’ve yet to see anyone but faculty and staff members remind students and guests to wear their masks when they’ve forgotten. I’ve reminded a few friends myself, but it seems this responsibility is brushed off by students.

“It’s definitely the students who are not enforcing the mask policy,” freshman Sam Joyce said.

If we wish to have a safe end to the semester, and a maskless campus in the future, it’s crucial we stick it out for now and do our best to remember the importance of the policy. We are a small, close-knit community, and wearing masks is just another way of showing how much we care about each other’s well-being.

Photo by Olivia Dorsey
Featured Photo Caption: Students, faculty, and guests are still required to wear masks properly in public indoor spaces at the College.

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