By Lizz Panchyk
We started out this semester on a rough note as January was a month of once-again rising Covid cases, which went up to the mid to high 40,000s. However, more recently, the cases have been going down to a point where mask mandates are being lifted across the country. Starting March 2, public schools began to loosen their mandates and Adelphi responded by lifting the mask mandate outdoors.
However, as of March 25, Adelphi lifted its mask mandate for all students while indoors but still encourages the option of wearing masks. Why wasn’t the mandate lifted sooner in
accordance with other area schools and colleges? Gene Palma, vice president of University Wellness, Safety and Administration, said, “By not lifting the indoor mask mandate until March 25 we are ensuring continued health and safety at Adelphi until after spring break (March 14–March 20), a time when many of our community members will travel and attend social gatherings.”
It is important to note that traveling can be risky, especially since we had our spring break this semester, unlike last year where we had five non-consecutive days off for “mini” breaks in the hopes of lessening the likelihood of travel.
“When I went away for spring break I went away with one friend to Pennsylvania and it felt really nice to not feel restricted and to feel like there was a sense of normalcy without a mask,” sophomore Courtney Reddan said. “I didn’t feel comfortable going around without a mask. I feel we’ve waited a couple of years and we have learned how to care for people with Covid and I believe it’s time we lift the restrictions and let everyone go back to feeling normal. I feel like it was the best decision for me personally because nothing has felt completely normal in two years so even just a couple of days of feeling normal was relieving.”
For this semester, the vaccination policy will stay in effect, but those who are not will need to submit at-home tests. Students are still encouraged to carry a mask around with them in case a professor or faculty member would feel more comfortable with the usage of them during a class or meeting, and paper masks will still be offered throughout the campus.
Palma said students should adhere to the usage of masks if it is requested while in an indoor area. Students are also still required to fill out their daily Covid screening for the rest of the semester. This will ensure a safer environment on the campus while our masks come off, and allow the Health and Wellness team to track those who do come down with Covid and keep them from entering the campus to allow for safety among all students, faculty and staff.
“Our Health and Wellness team considered multiple factors in making the mask-optional decision,” said Palma. “Among the primary factors are two important ones: the high percentage of fully vaccinated community members on campus and the remarkably low campus positivity rate which is currently at zero percent, as you will note on the University Covid-19 Dashboard.”
The Nassau County rate is also at about a low 1.80 percent. Seeing this low percentage also had an effect on the decision that was made for our Garden City campus. The Health and Wellness team will be on the lookout for rising cases and for any changes that need to be made for the rest of this semester and the ones that follow. “We are committed to implementing evidence-based policies that are informed by the best available data,” said Palma.
This reassures the Adelphi community that the next couple of months and the decisions that will be made during this time will keep us the safest as we continue to follow any necessary Covid guidelines, new or old.
The past couple of years have been rough on students everywhere, but with the steady low number of cases and slowly but surely lifting of mandates, we can hope for a more normal college experience and more in-person classes. We can also look forward to seeing everyone’s faces and their smiles once again, as it’s been far too long.
Sophomore Krissy Piccolo said, “It's been a long time coming and I appreciate that most professors are giving students the options [to mask up] in class because pretty much everybody is vaccinated so it'll be nice to see each other's faces after two years.”
But the truth is, not everyone may not be comfortable removing their masks just yet. And that’s okay. As a school community, it is important to keep one another safe as well as ourselves.
“I think that given the decrease in Covid 19 cases and high proportion of vaccinated individuals in the nation and especially on campus, that it makes sense to lift the mask mandate at Adelphi,” said associate professor Maria Cristina Zaccarini, an associate professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences. “For the past two years, we have taken all the right precautions and now I feel that this too is the right thing to do. On the other hand, I personally will continue to wear a mask because some students tell me that they have concerns and will remain masked. I would never want any student to feel unprotected and uncomfortable.”
With Covid, we never know what to expect, but hopefully the final couple months of the spring semester will begin to return to a sense of normalcy.