More time needed for masks
March 25, 2022
The UW System retiring President Tommy Thompson announced that UW campuses could lift mask mandates starting as soon as March 11. UW-River Falls followed along with this suggestion and as of the end of March 11, masks are no longer required on campus.
This falls right as students come back from spring break and are only required to get tested during the first week if they are not vaccinated. We at the Student Voice feel that this decision is simply poor timing and does not feel fully thought through. Although numbers within the county and on campus have shown a consistent decline, those numbers are prior to spring break.
The main concern lies in a large amount of travel to crowded places that happen over spring break for college students. A variety of students on our campus are likely to be hanging out in large groups or taking modes of transportation such as airplanes where they can be exposed to numerous people. These and other reasons raise concern for a higher level of possible exposure, which they could bring back to campus and expose others to as well. This secondary exposure is more likely without masks being required on campus.
Although the hope is that everyone is headed in the right direction and we are finally reaching the other side of it all, there still remains a level of uncertainty. The university recently sent out a message about how important it was to have a high-quality mask to stay protected against these new variants. They even offered higher quality KN95 masks provided by the government in a variety of buildings on campus. Shortly after this, it was announced that masks would no longer need to be worn at all. We feel that the University is sending mixed signals and there is a consistent need for clarification.
The university has also mentioned our high vaccination rates as being a reason for this next step to be taken. UW-Madison had a similar reason for their campus to follow the same steps as they claim to be at 95.7% for students. As of March 17, the UWRF COVID-19 dashboard says that our students are at 68.5% while employees are at 86.3% vaccinated. This number is slightly lower than the 70% goal they had so heavily marketed across campus to reach the goal of Protecting the Nest.
We at the Student Voice feel that at least waiting two weeks after spring break was over would have been a safer path to take. This would allow all students to get tested when coming back to campus and get a better idea of what the numbers look like after all of the travel that has occurred. We feel the university could then make a more thorough decision on lifting the mask mandate or keeping it in place for the safety of the students, while also maintaining in-person classes and not threatening future cancellations due to a possible spike.