Students hopeful, apprehensive about optional mask guidelines

As of March 21, Temple University is no longer requiring students to wear masks in places like dining and residence halls.

Jules Ryan, a junior media studies and production major and a bookseller in the book store, plans to continue wearing their mask at work and inside buildings. | ADAM PYSHER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As Jamal Evans walked around Alter Hall’s hallways, atrium and elevators this morning, he was surprised to see how many students were still wearing masks. 

As of Monday, Temple University students and employees are no longer required to wear masks in most campus spaces, including dining and residence halls. While some students see the new mask guidelines as a sign of hope that life is returning to normal, others are hesitant because they worry COVID-19 cases could rise. 

The university announced the new guidelines on March 11 and is still requiring students and employees to wear masks in classrooms, health care facilities, shuttles and other places where in-person learning takes place. 

Evans, a junior risk management and insurance major, was happy to read the university’s announcement about the new mask guidelines because he misses seeing people’s faces. However, he hopes that people will be respectful of others’ choices to continue wearing masks in the optional spaces. 

“Obviously a lot of us hang out together outside of school anyway, so I was happy in that sense, but also, some people aren’t comfortable being there yet, and I understand that,” Evans said.  

Evans plans to go without a mask in spaces like hallways and atriums but will put his mask on in smaller spaces, like elevators, or if he is around people who want him to wear one. 

“If you don’t want to wear your mask, I don’t want to wear mine either, but make sure you’re being cautious about those around you,” Evans said. 

Abigail Koziol, a junior social work major, feels it’s important to keep wearing masks to protect other people. They’re glad masks are still required in classrooms and labs — the spaces where students interact with others the most. 

Koziol hopes cases won’t go up and force Temple to reinstate masking in all campus buildings. 

“If we’re gonna make a personal choice, then yeah, I’m gonna stick with the mask,” they said. 

As of March 21, there are 26 active COVID-19 cases among students, faculty and staff, with nearly 98 percent fully vaccinated, according to the university’s vaccine and case dashboard. 

When Jules Ryan read the email announcement about the new mask mandate, they felt confused by the university’s logic. 

“We’re all waiting outside for a class to start, and none of us have a mask on, and then we have to have a mask when we go into the classroom — it just seems kind of counterproductive,” said Ryan, a junior media studies and production major.

Ryan works as a bookseller in the university’s bookstore and noticed most people keep their mask on while inside the store, which made them feel safer. They plan to continue wearing their mask at work and inside buildings, but understand why some may choose to do the opposite if they are vaccinated and taking precautions. 

Ellie Langenberg is frustrated and uncomfortable about some spaces not requiring masks. 

“For right now, because we are such a big campus, we have so many people, we should keep masks on,” said Langenberg, a freshman art therapy major. “Especially because there is a lot of parties going on, someone’s gonna catch something and it’s just gonna spread again, and we’re gonna be back to lock down.” 

Langenberg has an immunocompromised roommate and is worried about being in spaces where students aren’t wearing masks, contracting COVID-19 and potentially putting her roommate at risk. 

“I just hope we go back to wearing masks right now,” Langenberg said. “I mean, [the COVID-19 pandemic is] not going to be done anytime soon, so I really think if we just stick to that we can weed it out faster.”

Bradley Allen felt conflicted when he heard masks would be optional in some spaces. Although he’s slightly worried about catching COVID-19 and spreading it to his friends, he feels the risk is small because he is vaccinated and received his booster shot

“It’s obviously a sign of relief because we’ve been going through this pandemic for almost two years and, honestly, I’m kind of over the masks,” said Allen, a junior neuroscience major. 

Jasmine Lawson-Bailey feels the university’s decision was premature. 

“If you just hold out just a little bit longer with masks, we might be able to get to a point where you can actually take off masks and not worry about putting them back on in a couple months,” said Lawson-Bailey, a freshman exercise and sport science major. 

Lawson-Bailey is fully vaccinated, but still plans to wear her mask, even in mask-optional areas. 

“I want to protect other people,” Lawson-Bailey said. 

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