The countdown to the start of another school year in the pandemic has begun. Though there are still hundreds of daily cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia, most local universities are not requiring students to mask.
The decision has been met with mixed reactions, but ultimately Temple University says they are following what the city is doing. If the city changes course, the university says it will reevaluate.
“Majority of folks are very positive about it. Absolutely some are still concerned about COVID high risk, that’s why we encourage them to wear masks, and we have them available on campus,” explained Mark Denys, the senior director for health services at Temple University.
The decision to make masks optional was made by Temple’s health advisory panel, which includes leadership, infectious disease experts and other physicians. Vaccines will again be required this fall.
Masks must still be worn inside health care facilities.
“Now it’s time we can move to people taking the sense of responsibility for themselves,” Denys said.
He says the vaccination rate on campus last year exceeded 97% percent.
Students are glad the decision to mask up or not is being left up to them.
“I feel comfortable walking outside without a mask, but being in those crammed spaces just makes me tingle,” said Mia Griffin, a senior on campus.
Griffin works closely with small children. She says she’ll be in a mask for classes this fall.
“It makes sense. You could tell last semester things were opening up. Everyone is on the wave of not really wearing masks, kinda done with it,” said Tommy Patrissi, a junior on campus.
However, the Temple Association of University Professionals (TAUP) is not happy with this change, calling it unnecessary.
“I don’t think we’re at the worst of COVID. I think it’s like the sixth semester of us going into teaching with COVID and we all want this to be over, it’s just not over yet,” said Jeffery Doshna, the president of TAUP.
Masks in K-12 schools have also been a hot debate.
Many districts across the area use CHOP’s PolicyLab guidelines to make recommendations on masking in the classroom. For this upcoming school year, they recommend a return to normal operations.
Temple will be providing students with free at-home COVID tests. They are also holding a vaccine clinic on August 29 and 30.
Meanwhile, the CDC relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines Thursday, dropping the recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said people no longer need to stay at least 6 feet away from others.