By Nicole Fitzsimmons, News Editor
An email sent from OneManhattan to the Manhattan College community announced that the campus mask mandate will remain in place until at least March 31, despite new updates in COVID-19 protocols in both the city and the state.
In recent weeks, the NYS protocols for mask mandates and vaccination requirements to enter certain buildings have been lightened. Therefore, administrators, students, and staff are beginning the discussion of how protocols should look at Manhattan College.
“On Sunday, February 27, Governor Hochul announced that the mask mandate for students in K-12 schools will be lifted statewide beginning on Wednesday, March 2. New York City Mayor Eric Adams also announced plans to follow suit in New York City schools beginning Monday, March 7,” the email stated.
However, the mask mandate at Manhattan College is confirmed in the email to remain in effect until, at least, March 31. The reasoning for the continued mandate is partly due to the need for the school to look at numbers as students return from break.
In a virtual meeting with the co-chairs of One Manhattan on March 2, student government and administrators were invited to share their thoughts and questions.
“I agree with that,” dean of the school of engineering, Tim Ward, P.E., said. “I think that’s the way that we should go. I think we should keep our mask on until Spring Break hits. Let’s let our students go out for spring break. Let them come back from spring break and see how everybody’s doing in this and make the final determination after spring, the week after spring break. I think that would help. I think that would help us understand where we are and whether or not we’re going to have any type of a resurgence, which I hope we don’t.”
Yet, the college is still grappling with changes and does not want to move too quickly. Most notably, the discussion consisted of questions regarding the protocols for unvaccinated individuals or visitors, and the place of the surveillance testing which was recently announced.
Other questions regarding mask mandates affect the entire community directly, not certain populations, making answers to these questions less immediately solvable. The college emphasizes how trends must be considered to make these decisions.
“The indoor masking [policy] will affect all of our population,” vice president of external & legal relations and chief of staff, Tamara Britt, said. “So, we want to talk about what that would look like. And, then the other piece that does affect the whole population on our testing, the testing policies that we have in place. So Pete outlined that on the agenda, we will say that testing for exempt individuals will continue. That is weekly testing, and their surveillance testing as of right now will continue through March 25, and that would be revisited.”
On campus, these decisions must be made with careful attention to the way each aspect of the community feels safe .
“There are people who are anxious to have masks removed everywhere, there are people who are concerned about removing masks everywhere, and so we have to sort of balance that and walk towards it to get together carefully,” Provost Steven Schreiner told The Quadrangle. “But at some point, it looks like the data is showing that the COVID is certainly waning strongly in New York City, the data I looked at yesterday, help us look at the data as well, it’s really coming down to very low levels.”
The college is committing itself to listening to the needs of the community throughout these changes and will intervene following the weeks after spring break if numbers stay low for decisions like lifting the mask mandate or changing visitor protocols.
“So the college itself, just really, it’s [the goal] to continue making sure that we take care of our community,” Schreiner said. “And I think it was said yesterday, you know, at one of the meetings, we’re not calling ourselves one Manhattan, for no reason. We want to listen, listen, and be careful for all of our community members.”