On Feb. 10, the Coronavirus Planning Team sent out an email informing students of the decision to remain masking indoors regardless of Gov. Ned Lemont’s announcement to end the mask mandate for K-12 schools by the end of year.
According to the email, “Because the CDC still lists Fairfield County as a high-transmission area and, on the advice of state and local health officials, Sacred Heart will continue to require indoor masking for the time being.”
“As much as we would love to say ‘When you meet this metric, you can do this,’ unfortunately, none of that exists,” said Dr. Henry Yoon, Medical Director of the Coronavirus Planning Team. “The way we make these decisions is balancing the scale of safety and quality of education against metrics that are most often case rate and positivity rate-driven on our campus.”
Some students have been supportive of the decision to keep masking regardless of the new announcements about Covid-19.
“Honestly, I think that the university has done a great job in keeping our community safe during the pandemic,” said junior Ryan Downey.
However, other students remain critical of the decision due to the low number of cases shown on the Sacred Heart Covid Dashboard that, as of Feb. 18, has shown to be a total of nine, including students both on and off-campus, as well as faculty and staff.
“Most people don’t even wear their masks properly anyways so I think, at this point, it should just be lifted,” said senior Kristen Murray. “We are required to be vaccinated and boostered, so I don’t think at this point we should have to wear a mask especially, because once the weather gets warmer, cases usually begin to drop as well.”
Yoon and the Coronavirus Planning Team are able to recognize some of these students’ frustrations. However, with students coming in and out of campus constantly, there is still an opportunity for Covid outbreaks.
“The decisions are all about risks and benefits,” said Yoon. “Sacred Heart is dedicated first and foremost to the safety of their students.”
With the delta, omicron, and other Covid variants, the team has been well aware of the ever-changing landscape of Covid so changes to the pre-existing mask policy is not out of the question whether that be implementing more or less amendments.
“As we have since the beginning, we will always monitor the status of the virus and make our decisions accordingly,” said Michael Iannazzi, Co-Chair of the Coronavirus Planning Team and Vice President for Marketing and Communications.
However, even if the decision to not mask anymore happens, some students have become attached to masking over the years and have even become aware of some of the benefits it can bring.
“I don’t really feel ready to not be wearing masks yet,” said junior Christiana Kelly, a nursing student. “I also think it prevents getting colds during cold and flu season which is nice. I know that lifting the mask mandate is inevitable, but I’m definitely just nervous.”
With relatively consistent low Covid-19 numbers across campus, it might not be too much longer that students will have to wait to take off their masks.
“If things continue to get better, as they have been, it is likely that we will modify our indoor masking policy soon,” said Iannazzi.