By Gabriel Donahue, Contributing Writer
Photo by Gabriel Donahue / The Towerlight
Mask-wearing in most on-campus settings was officially declared ‘optional’ by Towson University’s (TU) COVID-19 Response Leadership Team on March 1. When announcing their decision, the COVID-19 Response Leadership Team cited a 95% decrease in the transmission rate of the disease in Baltimore County.
The shift to voluntary mask-wearing has ended the mandated use of KN95s by faculty and students in classrooms, a move that has been both anticipated and dreaded.
Those who eagerly awaited the email from TU confirming the change were happy to see the mandate dropped .
“I’m kinda glad about it,” freshman Warsameh Abdi said. “I was fine with the mask mandate, but it was getting tiring, you know?”
Abdi has already abandoned wearing his mask in class and on campus, as many TU students have done. He comments having seen “a lot of people wearing masks still, and a lot of people who aren’t.”
Some students will decide whether or not they should wear their mask based on the situation.
“I will wear it sometimes … If I’m in an area with people or I’m not sitting down and eating, I will have my mask on,” said Kameron Saldivia, a sophomore at TU.
For junior Emily Fronczek, she says she will wear a cloth mask at the gym, but wear a KN95 during classes “for [her] own safety.”
Fronczek stated that she is “a little torn” with the lifting of the mask mandate.
“I guess it’s good to know that things are getting better and we’re heading in the right direction with that, but I feel that it was a little too soon, a little too sudden,” Fronczek said.
This critique of the lifting of the mask mandate as a sudden change is shared by other students.
Junior Avery Tarwater took a moment to collect their thoughts before responding that they are “not wholly comfortable” with the change in COVID-19 protocols.
“The turnaround from coming in, being required to wear [K]N95s, and then being told that you don’t need to wear masks in class anymore … it’s just a very rapid change,” Tarwater said.
Similarly, TU sophomore Haley Short thinks that Towson “could have phased [the mask mandate] out better than just dropping it one day.”
“I stopped wearing the KN95 and I’m wearing regular surgical masks … I’m still trying to keep it on for the most part,” Short said.
Regardless of her own decision to continue wearing her mask, Short states that she is “not gonna judge people for not or for wearing masks.”
The prospect of a mask mandate returning to campus in the future is another concern of students.
“I mean, I hope it’s the end, but I don’t know,” Fronczek said. “I think next fall or winter, I mean, [a mask mandate] could happen again. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened again.”
While Short thinks the mandate “might come back,” Abdi is more optimistic.
“I’ve seen things about some states … and other cities and stuff getting rid of the mandates, so I think we’re moving past the COVID mandates,” Abdi said.
Tarwater agrees that the university’s lifting of the mask mandate foreshadows a long-term return to normalcy in terms of on-campus mandates.
“I don’t think we’re ever gonna see [a mandate] again,” Tarwater said. “I think people are ready to put masks and COVID behind them; whether or not COVID is ready to put us behind it is a different story, but I just hope for the best.”
The University’s COVID-19 Response Leadership Team said it will continue to monitor the situation and adjust COVID-19 protocols as needed.