Colleges In Massachusetts Keep Mask Mandates Indefinitely

Several colleges in Massachusetts are continuing their COVID-19 mask mandates on campus until further notice, according to the announcements by each college.
by Reagan Reese

Several colleges in Massachusetts are continuing their COVID-19 mask mandates on campus until further notice, according to the announcements by each college.

In the last month, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College and Hampshire College have announced their decision to continue their mask mandates indefinitely, mainly because of the volume of cases on campus, according to the colleges’ websites. Amherst College will let each individual classroom decide on a mask mandate through a survey.

“Though we are not there yet, we will eventually shift from a pandemic to an endemic phase,” Mount Holyoke Interim President Beverly Daniel Tatum wrote in a Sept. 28 letter. “As we do, we will also need to evolve our institutional responsibility for COVID-19 protections and expand our individual responsibility — eventually making our own decisions about whether to remain masked in public spaces or not, both on campus and off.”

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The original mask mandate at Mount Holyoke College was set to expire on Sept. 30 but the number of cases on campus, about 50 per week, led to Tatum’s announcement. She included that because campus educators are “understaffed and overtaxed,” lifting the mask mandate would be “imprudent.”

Hampshire College updated its COVID-19 policies on Oct. 3 listing that until further notice, a KN95 mask or better is required while indoors. When outside, masks are recommended if in a crowd or within 6 feet of others.

A Sept. 13 letter from Smith College President Kathleen McCartney and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration David DeSwert explained that the high number of COVID-19 cases on campus, 91 since Sept. 18, led to extending the mask mandate. Students are also required to receive their booster vaccine by Dec. 1.

Mask mandates decided on a classroom-by-classroom basis will go into effect on Oct. 17 at Amherst College, the school announced in a letter. Professors will administer a survey in each of their classes to see if any students prefer the mask mandate be continued.

“If anyone in the class, including the instructor, wants to continue with masking, then masks will be required,” the letter stated. “Additionally, even those classes that determine that masks will be optional will respect an individual’s choice to wear a mask. Faculty are encouraged to revisit the decision with another survey in early November.”

Following Thanksgiving, a more strict mask mandate may be implemented by the college due to traveling by faculty and students, Amherst College announced.

In August, other institutions announced their rollback of COVID-19 policies ahead of the new school year; College of Charleston in South Carolina stopped requiring negative COVID-19 tests for class. At Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, the campus-wide mask mandate was dropped.

Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and Amherst College did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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