CUNY Reacts: New York And CUNY Lift Mask Mandate 

Face masks are no longer required to be worn on campus./brefardfl.gov

By Mary Zakharova

 

   New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams announced that starting on Mar. 7, masks and proof of vaccination will no longer be required in most indoor venues. Two days before the state’s lift, CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez sent out a university-wide email announcing that CUNY will also be removing its mask mandate, giving students the option to wear their mask or not. 

   All other COVID-19 mandates, such as vaccination and booster requirements for students and faculty, mandatory COVID-19 testings for those with approved vaccine exemptions, and random testing for vaccinated CUNY members, will remain unaltered. 

   The Chancellor’s announcement caused many across campuses to question if the mask mandate lift is too soon.  

   “Omicron was at its peak in mid-January and that’s only about two months ago,” said Anastasia, a Brooklyn College student who did not want to share her last name. “There should still be a mask mandate for packed areas like stores, subways, and places where people gather because right now we really don’t know if a worse strain could develop.”

  Between December 2021 and last January, the highly-contagious Omicron variant was estimated by some epidemiologists to have infected 40 percent or more of New York City residents, the New York Times reported. However, during this Omicron peak, there were fewer COVID-related deaths in comparison to the pandemic’s first wave of contractions in 2020. Contractions in the city have dropped significantly with 12,454 cases recorded as of press time, according to Our World In Data

   Pro-Student CUNY, an organization that demands the university to include student voices in COVID-related policies and decisions, is also against the mask mandate lift. One of the members, who preferred to remain anonymous, believes professors should make students aware of any unvaccinated students in the classrooms since masks are no longer mandatory. “You can say there is someone [unvaccinated in the class]; you don’t say who,” the anonymous student said. 

   Jennifer Reyes, a John Jay College student, agreed that everything is happening too fast. She believes there is no structure in the decision to lift the mask mandate, and desires more clarity from CUNY on what students should expect. 

   “If we take the mask mandate off, how are we going to verify […] who has COVID and who does not? From my understanding, unvaccinated students still have to […] get tested if they want to come into the building, but are we going to start testing everybody now because there’s gonna be no masks?” she said. 

   Saaif Alam, a John Jay student who serves as University Student Senate’s Vice-Chair of Disability Affairs, added that even though Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams lifted the mask mandate, “universities still have their discretion to enforce mandates,” and suggested “the Chancellor to communicate more with the student body first before making those kinds of decisions.” 

 

   Since CUNY students do not currently have representation in the university’s decisions regarding COVID policies, John Jay student Sophia Kieseheuer says that students do not have enough power to overturn the mask mandate lift. However, she suggested that online and hybrid classes should be made more accessible. 

   “If there is no more mask mandate and students are feeling now even more uncomfortable to go on campus, this is another reason why we need more online and hybrid options,” said Kieseheuer. 

 

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