Northeastern to lift mandatory mask requirements
Northeastern will remove indoor mask requirements at its Boston campus, in accordance with new public health guidance. Face coverings are optional in all settings starting Saturday, March 5, except for university health and counseling services.
This change in university policy comes from Boston Health Authorities announced that on Saturday they will lift the city’s mask requirement for indoor spaces such as gyms, restaurants, museums and entertainment venues. The city will continue to require masks in Boston public schools, public transportation, and healthcare facilities.
The mask requirement for indoor areas had already been lifted for many The Northeast Campuses including in Nahant, Burlington, London, Portland, Charlotte and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released revised recommendations for local jurisdictions to facilitate pandemic containment measures such as masking and social distancing. Among the CDCs new criteriaThe metrics now show that less than a third of the US population lives in a county where masks should still be worn in indoor public places. Federal health officials also continue to mandate that people wear face coverings on public and private transportation, such as trains, buses, planes, and Uber and Lyft vehicles.
Northeastern’s updated masking policy emphasizes that face coverings are optional indoors, including dormitories, classrooms, dining rooms, offices, fitness centers, and other campus buildings. This reflects a wider shift nationwide towards an individual and case-by-case approach to pandemic preparedness.
“Northeastern created this environment where we all feel pretty safe and secure. This appears to be the next step,” he says, as the community is fully vaccinated and empowered Mike Beaudet, Professor of Journalism Practice at Northeastern. “Personally yes, I am ready to take my mask off. I think it will remove a barrier in the classroom in terms of communication. It will enhance learning and teaching.”
Giving people a chance to live without a mask is a welcome breath of fresh air, says Henry Burtis, a fifth-year computer science major at Northeastern. “It’s a sign of a return to normal, so it’s really good news,” says Burtis, who nonetheless says he plans to put his mask on during classes and indoor workouts, at least for now.
Summer Weidman, a sophomore in environmental studies, says she’s “relieved” the mask requirement is ending. “I never really experienced normality in college,” she says. “It’s just not quite the same when you have to wear a mask.”
Weidman adds that she recently contracted COVID-19 and, as she says, only had mild cold symptoms, which she attributes to the boost. Northeast requires all members of the university community are fully vaccinated and refreshed against COVID-19.
This vaccination requirement makes a difference for Grace Pattarini, a fourth-year environmental engineering student. “In Boston, I believe that [masks] are a good idea considering you don’t know who is vaccinated and who isn’t,” she says. However, as members of the Northeast community need to be empowered, Pattarini says she is supporting the Northeast to continue following CDC guidelines.
Under the CDC’s new guidelines, counties will be divided into three “COVID-19 community-level” categories based on hospital admission rates, hospital capacity, and new COVID-19 cases. Each category gets one specific sentence of recommended prevention strategies at both individual and community levels.
Each county in Massachusetts will be classified as “low” or “moderate” level of COVID-19 under new CDC guidelines. Neither category requires mask mandates in the CDC’s guidance. The CDC lists the risk level every county in the country on its website.
Massachusetts’ Suffolk County, which includes Boston, falls in the moderate category, meaning the CDC recommends focusing on access to tools such as vaccinations, testing and treatment, among others, especially for humans at high risk and those who are in close social contact with them. Regarding masking, the CDC advises that people should speak to their doctor if they are immunocompromised or at high risk of serious illness.
Although it was once thought that wearing a mask only protected others from your germs, scientists have now found this out Disposable Masking works to protect the wearer – even when interacting with someone who is exposed. This is especially true if the person wearing a mask is wearing a high-quality, medical-grade ventilator, such as a ventilator N95 or KN95.
“Since day one of the pandemic, Northeastern has prioritized the health and safety of our community. Working with university leaders and faculty experts, decisions were made using the latest data on Covid-19 transmission and public health guidance,” he says Thomas Vinino, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern. “One of the lessons learned from the pandemic is that our new normal is one of constant assessment of changing conditions and adaptation to new protocols. Ultimately, this decision reflects our preparation to navigate an endemic disease while balancing the risk with the many intellectual and social interactions our campus spaces offer us.”
Journalism professor Beaudet adds: “We have to be respectful of people who have reservations. I think we have to respect that not everyone will be comfortable with that.”
Sara Lourie, parent of first-year student, supports an end to mask requirements indoors. “Students need to see the faces of their professors and other students,” she says. “Socialization is necessary for their mental health. While there was a time and place for previous variants, the current state should be mask choice.”
The end of the mask requirement does not mean that students now want to live without a mask all the time. Pattarini, for example, plans to continue wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces, especially in situations where professors or classmates may be more susceptible to serious illnesses. “I calculate for the people around me,” she says.
Ethan Fasking, a fifth-year computer science and physics student, has asthma and thinks masking provides that extra layer of protection.
“Even though the number of cases is going down and the side effects are less severe, there is a possibility of some pretty nasty long-term effects that I think are best avoided, especially in the interests of our more vulnerable students and faculty,” says Fasking.
Hillary Chabot contributed coverage.
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