By The Spartan Editorial Board
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Feb. 25 eased mask recommendations for much of the country. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the new guidelines, which classify the country into low, medium and high levels of disease, provide individuals with an understanding of what precautions they should consider based on the level of disease in their community, their underlying risk, and their own risk tolerance, according to the Washington Post.
On March 2, York College adjusted its guidelines to allow more flexibility in the strict placement of face masks for preventing COVID-19 from spreading. Masks became optional except inside classrooms and at labs and clinicals.
Per the note posted on the website and also distributed by email, “York County is currently classified as a green county, and the recommendation from the CDC is ‘wear a mask based on your personal preference, informed by your personal level of risk.’ People may choose to mask at any time. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.
That original note also stressed two other things:
Please consider that some members of our community may be uncomfortable meeting with others who are not wearing masks. I ask that you respect and accommodate their request to wear a mask when meeting with them, or meet via Zoom.
Keep a mask on hand at all times. You may choose or need to wear one depending on the situation and if others ask you to do so.
Look, we’re as delighted as anyone that masks have become optional. As sophomore Alyson Hoffman noted in her story first published on The Spartan website and later ran in The York Dispatch as part of a new cooperative, “Everyone tells you how amazing the college experience will be. You will make so many friends, meet people from all over the world, you will join clubs, and go to all sorts of fun events. But for those of us who started college in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we haven’t been able to do all those things.”
We’ve also noticed that seeing someone wear a mask outside the classroom is rare since the change went into effect. That despite the fact it is still winter, that we see people coughing and sneezing without masks while not knowing if they could have COVID. So many of us have started to relax as we crowd into the hallways and other areas where others congregate. We get that; it’s a natural reaction after a pandemic that has turned our lives upside down for more than two years.
But we write this as nothing more than a nudge to the entire York College community that the pandemic hasn’t disappeared. Indeed, the Post in a story published today noted that a surge in coronavirus infections in Western Europe has experts and health authorities on alert for another pandemic wave in the United States. It’s because of a subvariant of omicron known as BA.2, which is reportedly more transmissible than the original strain, BA.1, and is sparking the outbreak overseas. Germany, the United Kingdom and China, among others, are all reporting an increase in cases over the past week.
Couple that with the fact that there are members of the York College community who are a little more hesitant to put away their masks. For sure, the fact that COVID remains in play is a big concern for those who tracked illnesses a lot easier than others with stronger immune systems.
So, enjoy the freedom but keep in mind that we all have a responsibility to each other to stay safe. The mask lift is a good thing, but it has consequences that need to be carefully administered by not only the students but everyone who works here at York College.