At least a dozen universities and colleges have reinstated their indoor mask mandates due to rising COVID-19 cases. Schools such as Columbia University, John Hopkins University, and more have announced that they will require face coverings in the classrooms or indoor spaces again. They are concerned about the more contagious omicron BA.2 subvariant.
Universities and Colleges Are at a Standstill
The BA.2 subvariant is behind the rise in cases nationwide and causing a divide on whether another mask mandate should be in place. These concerns come just weeks after many cities and counties loosened their public health restrictions. This move offered Americans a sense of normalcy, which hadn’t been seen for two years.
“The national debate over mask mandates is certainly reflective of pandemic fatigue and the deep political divides we have in terms of the public health policy related to COVID-19,” said Neil Maniar, director of Northeastern University’s Master of Science Public Health in Urban Health Program.
“It is impossible to disentangle the political aspect from the public health and science-based realities of how we can respond to this pandemic,” he said.
Many wonder whether shifting away from pandemic-era rules was premature, especially with the rising number of cases. A U.S. district judge in Florida recently struck down a federal mask mandate for planes and other public transit. And as expected, The Biden Administration appealed the decision last week.
Last week, Philadelphia lifted its indoor mask mandate days after becoming the first major city to reinstate it. The city’s average new cases fell to 242 per day compared to 377 in April. Hospitalizations also fell to 65 compared to 82 in April. In addition, several schools loosened their inflexible mask mandates after the city’s reversal. U Penn also lifted their mask requirements for indoor public spaces on campus but still requires them in the classroom.
The country waits and watches to see if more institutions will reinstate their indoor mask mandate requirements.