Article by Freelancer Aya Hussein
The University of Maryland, College Park lifted its indoor mask mandate on Feb. 28.
This decision follows announcements from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Prince George’s County that they will be lifting indoor mask mandates.
“Our practice since the beginning of this pandemic has been to closely follow national, state and county health guidance,” President Darryll J. Pines wrote in a letter. “With this in mind, we are adjusting our COVID-19 health measures.”
“Masks will no longer be required in offices, dining halls, residence halls or at athletic events. These updated protocols are subject to change as conditions warrant,” according to the letter.
Masks will still be required inside classrooms and other instructional spaces, as well as health centers, testing sites and on public transportation. Individuals who test positive, show symptoms or have been exposed to someone with the virus are also expected to wear masks, according to Pines.
In late December 2021 and early January 2022, the COVID-19 omicron variant spread rapidly throughout communities nationwide. This caused some of the highest numbers of reported positive covid cases since the start of the pandemic, with the daily average rising to 805,062 cases by Jan.15, according to the New York Times.
Maryland’s daily positive test rate was 28.3% by Jan. 6, according to the Maryland Department of Health. Since the start of February, COVID-19 cases have been dropping rapidly. Maryland’s daily positive rate was less than 3% by Feb. 28, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
As indoor masking rules began to ease, University of Maryland students shared mixed opinions on their comfort levels around campus.
Senior government and politics and multiplatform journalism double major Grace Kpetemey said that she is comfortable with the university easing its masking rules. She says that it makes sense as the cases are dropping to such low rates.
“I think that we have to go with the science and continually keep watching it,” Kpetemey said. “Making policies that actually serve the public and not our fears is what’s most important, and making policies that make sense according to the science.”
Freshman chemistry major Sandra Radakovic said that she was a little nervous when she heard about the lifting of the mask mandate as the preventative measures helped to reduce the number of cases after they spiked in early January.
“I still know people that are getting COVID and I feel like if we just take [mask mandates] away, it’s just gonna start coming back again, which defeats the purpose,” Radakovic said.
“I’m not saying it’s all because of the masks and our preventative measures, but partly it surely has to do with that.”
Although students are starting to become more comfortable with removing their masks in dining and residence halls since the indoor mask mandate has been lifted, a lot of students and staff still wear masks inside other buildings.
“We’ve been wearing masks for so long, but also because I almost feel a social pressure to still wear masks. I guess I won’t really be doing it until other people do it,” Kpetemey said.