Rowan University announced that wearing a mask indoors will be optional starting March 7, according to the Rowan Announcer that was sent out via email March 2.
“Current CDC and state COVID-19 guidelines, along with our downward trend of positive cases University-wide, allow us to revise indoor masking and daily screening mandates starting March 7,” the announcer read.
Students are allowed to choose whether they want to wear a mask unless they have been exposed to COVID-19, are feeling ill with upper respiratory symptoms (including being COVID-19 positive), are in a “health care clinical setting,” or a healthcare provider has asked, according to the announcer.
The announcer also stressed the importance of being respectful of everyone’s choices.
Staff can request that students and others wear a mask in their office, according to the announcer. If the other party refuses, other arrangements can be made.
It also stated that if there are any changes to data or if state and federal officials advise so, the mask mandate may return in the future.
“For the past two years we’ve been making decisions by synthesizing guidance, looking at trends, where we’re going, and all roads were leading in this direction,” the Director of the Wellness Center Scott Woodside said.
Woodside stated that there the heads of multiple facilities hold weekly meetings where they discuss potential plans.
“We had plans in place should the numbers look the way they look, and should hospitals look the way they look, then we’d move forward, knowing that at some point, there needs to be a transition to where we are,” he said.
Woodside noted that many students find wearing masks a “hindrance” to attending Rowan University.
His concerns have changed from wondering if the school had enough soap, to concerns of the healthcare system and the number of patients.
“The urgent care here hasn’t been operational because they pulled that staff into the hospital to support their main operation in Inspira. I actually just spoke with them today and they’re going to be repopulating the urgent care shortly, they’re working on the plan now,” Woodside said.
He is also concerned about the social impacts of the pandemic.
“I’m concerned how students are used to a certain thing, then there’s anxiety about demasking. I’m concerned that we won’t interact the same. There are people that have been reluctant to engage with anybody right now,” Woodside said. “I’m hoping that this is just one step that people can now look at the social connectedness piece of it and how we connected with each other because it’s clear to me that we’re incredibly connected. We suffer when we’re not connected.”
According to Woodside, there hasn’t been an influx of students or parents coming to him or the university with concerns about the mask mandate being lifted.
“There’s a part of me that is tired, very tired. It’s been a long two years. So, there’s part of me that’s like ‘yes, let’s be done with everything,’ but the Director of the Wellness Center part of me is like ‘we still have a mission, we still have to think about the health, wellness and safety of Rowan,” Woodside said.
According to the Rowan University website, there are only three active isolation cases of COVID-19, but they were off-campus. On Jan. 4, there were 61 cases among students and 13 cases among Rowan University employees.
Woodside praised students for their cooperation during the pandemic. Had there been little cooperation, things “could have [gone in] another direction,” he said.
Woodside has no concerns regarding spring break.
“Anytime students go home for any reason, it’s the ongoing assumption students are going to come back with something,” Woodside said. “I’m hoping students and staff are more responsive and they’re not doing things that are uncharacteristic or hanging out with someone who’s sick.”
COVID-19 testing has been expanded to account for the break.
“The message I hope comes across is [hopefulness] and that we need to be respectful of one another because people are going to be coming from different places with this. I personally suffered a significant number of losses during covid,” Woodside said.
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