The recent surge in COVID-19 outbreaks within college campuses has left many universities with no other choice but to bring back mask mandates and other safety measures to mitigate further transmission.
The sudden rise in cases has been attributed to several factors, including the resumption of social activities and large gatherings on campus, the easing of mask policies last February and March, and the aggressiveness of Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant.
This variant has become the dominant strain in just a short time, taking hold of the US with a recent average of more than 31,000 new cases per day nationwide — with sharper increases noted in New York City and Washington, DC.
Putting the Mask Back On
Several universities have reinstated quarantines and social distancing protocols to avoid canceling classes. But with the severity of the situation, some schools are allowing professors to decide what policies to uphold.
American University announced that masks would be required in all campus buildings, medical facilities, and school shuttles starting Tuesday. Professors are allowed to take them off only when they are teaching classes.
Columbia University is also requiring students to wear non-cloth masks in classrooms for the entire spring semester, while Rice University has mandated the use of masks in classrooms, regardless of vaccination status.
Georgetown University said last week that students, especially undergraduate learners, must have masks if they want to enter any buildings on campus.
On top of a mask mandate, Johns Hopkins University has called on its students to undergo twice-weekly testing until at least April 22.