University considers altering mask requirements

Luke Henne | sports editor. Masking up to fight Covid-19 might soon be a thing of the past at Duquesne. In an official statement sent to students and faculty on March 4, the university announced that, on March 21, masking indoors will likely no longer be required.

by Luke Henne | sports editor

March 17, 2022

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updating its guidance on wearing masks to combat the spread of Covid-19, it’s expected that masking while on Duquesne’s campus will no longer be required in most circumstances, starting soon.

In a release sent to students and faculty on March 4, the university said that it will likely “no longer require masks to be worn indoors, starting Monday, March 21, 2022, assuming Allegheny County’s low transmission rate remains low.

“The [Duquesne] Health and Safety Committee will continue to follow county and campus data closely. If transmission rates or other risk factors increase, the university may reinstate preventive measures.”

Liam Belleville, a student majoring in information systems, isn’t sold on the timing of when the mandate would be dropped.

“I like the idea of removing the mandate for the vaccinated as Covid numbers continue dropping. Covid isn’t just going to disappear overnight, but we want to get back to some semblance of normal,” Belleville said. “However, I think that next Monday is pretty bad timing, given the likely surge in cases that will come from spring break travel and St. Patrick’s Day.

“My only suggestion would be to give it just a little while longer as we wait and see what kind of surge hits the campus.”

Abby Lanzelotti, who majors in secondary English education and is currently student teaching at the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy in Oakland, is opposed to the mandate potentially being dropped.

“I was just in Mamma Mia! at the Genesius Theater, and there was a huge breakout of Covid among the cast after spending two rehearsals using clear masks,” Lanzelotti said. “So I don’t even want to think about the rise in Covid cases if the mandate was dropped for the whole university.”

Although Lanzelotti lives off campus and doesn’t have any actual classes during her student-teaching period, she often comes in close contact with those who do attend classes on campus.

“I don’t want there to be more of an opportunity for Covid to reach my apartment and put myself or the students that I teach every day in danger,” Lanzelotti said.

The date in which the mandate would be removed falls one week after classes resumed following spring break (March 14). This would allow for a week in which the university “encourages individuals – regardless of symptom status – to take a Covid test” following the return to campus.

For the duration of the week, Covid tests will be “widely available on campus” so that the university can “establish a baseline and assess the current transmission rate before implementing any changes to [their] current requirements.”

Nate Pearson, an occupational therapy student, thinks that it’s “time for masks to go away now, but maybe not permanently.”

“I think that we should fluctuate masking based on CDC and Allegheny County guidance,” Pearson said. “If the county is considered a green zone, and the CDC suggests it, then we should have no masks, but [they should] be able to bring them back if the county is designated as a yellow or red high-transmission area.

“I do think it’s time, though, if we are following the science and CDC suggestions right now.”

In the release, the university explained that “some faculty have suggested that professors and other instructors should be permitted to require masks in classes, at their discretion,” due in part to the variety of class sizes and offerings. The committee, the body ultimately responsible for making the decision, is reviewing and contemplating this possibility.

Mark Frisch, an associate professor and the chair of the modern languages and literature department, said that his department “will follow the university policy.”

“If we have flexibility in deciding, we will not have a departmental policy,” Frisch said. “I will leave it up to the individual professor.”

Frisch said that he’s glad that Duquesne is reconsidering the long-standing mandate.

“Considering the Centers for Disease Control’s current guidelines, I think some change in the university’s policy is in order unless cases start to spike,” Frisch said.

Dawson Green, a pharmacy student, believes that things have reached the point where the choice to mask should be left up to the individual.

“I remember my sophomore year, I stayed home because I was so nervous to get Covid due to my asthma,” Green said. “This year, though, being vaccinated and wearing masks during class has helped me feel more secure in class and being on campus.

“However, I think there is a point in time when this mandate needs to be lifted, and it is on the individual to choose if they wish to wear one or not.”

Green also added that “if cases begin to spike at Duquesne, I can see a reason to implement [the mandate] again.”

“I personally do not mind wearing a mask most of the time and do not have a problem with it because I know the purpose is important,” Green said. “But there are times when it can get annoying after a while.”

The release also indicated, “Masks will remain available in offices and in Health Services for individuals who need them. Unvaccinated and vulnerable individuals are strongly encouraged to continue to wear masks.

“Individuals exhibiting symptoms should not go to class or to in-person work, should get tested and should wear a mask until results are known.”