Students in Kaplan’s Café following the new masking guidelines. Photo by Alana Melvin.
Lawrence University transitioned to being a Mask Friendly campus on Thursday, Mar. 17, as stated in an email that the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team (LPPT) sent out to the campus community on Friday, Mar. 4. Being a Mask Friendly campus means that masks can be worn by anyone at any time on campus but are not universally required. However, faculty, employees, students and meeting/event organizers may choose to require masks in their individual spaces.
Along with being in alignment with current CDC guidance, LPPT used the decrease in viral activity both on campus and in the surrounding community to adjust its mitigation strategies and become a Mask Friendly campus, Vice President for Communications and LPPT member Megan Scott said.
While all members of the Lawrence Community are still expected to follow the Lawrence Campus Community Pledge, which outlines guidelines that community members must commit to, those guidelines have been updated to reflect the new policy. The Pledge no longer specifically requires weekly surveillance testing, in addition to no longer requiring mask wearing.
LPPT has decided to not use weekly surveillance testing due to the decrease in viral activity on campus and in the surrounding community, as well as the Lawrence University community’s vaccination rate, which is over 90% for students and employees, according to Scott.
The Pledge, however, does indicate that students will participate in testing as required, which would cover testing as part of LPPT’s contact tracing process and surveillance testing if it is reimplemented.
“As we have done throughout the pandemic, our community continues to rely on individuals making decisions for the good of the community,” Scott said.
Scott also stated that students are encouraged to test for COVID-19 if they are experiencing any symptoms.
LPPT did, however, require rapid testing on Monday, Mar. 28, the day after students returned from spring break. Out of the 1,020 students who were tested, one individual tested positive for COVID-19.
As a result, LPPT decided to shift from Yellow Light status to Green Light status starting on Monday, Apr. 4. This means that all curricular and co-curricular activities will remain in-person and all academic and administrative buildings, including Mudd Library, will now be open to the public without key card access from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Some students are choosing to keep wearing their mask and other students are choosing not to.
Senior Brandon Danowski likes the new policy and is no longer wearing a mask around campus.
“I like having the freedom to not have to wear a mask,” Danowski said. “I think that the way we interact with people has a lot to do with our facial expressions and I think that behind a mask, it’s hard to interpret the way someone says something or how they feel about something.”
Before, Danowski did not understand why the campus community needed to get vaccinated when mask wearing and social distancing were still required, he said.
“Wasn’t the whole point of getting vaccinated to have more freedom?” Danowski said.
Unlike Danowski, first year Lillian Thompson continues to wear their mask in their classes and was surprised by the university’s decision to remove its mask mandate. What was more concerning to them than the removal of the university’s mask mandate, though, was LPPT’s decision to not continue with surveillance testing, Thompson said.
“Anyone who possibly might have COVID-19, we’re not going to know about it until it’s too late to really catch it,” Thompson said. “I really would have felt a lot more comfortable not wearing a mask if we still had testing.”