Snapshots from the first day that masks were no longer required

A look at the dining hall around lunchtime Monday. (Photo by Breanna Hoffner)

By The Spartan staff

President Pamela-Gunter Smith on March 19 announced that masking would become optional in classrooms. This change effectively ends the mask mandate on campus, as an update that only 17 days prior relaxed guidelines and only required masking in classrooms. However, this might not be a permanent change.

“Individual faculty could continue to require masks in classrooms and labs,” the president said in her official statement. “If we detect a concerning rise in cases, we may reinstitute our mitigation efforts.” The president could not be reached for further comment.

Reaction to the change has been mixed, with some students happy about the change and others believing the school is too quick to relax the guidelines. Members of The Spartan staff interviewed students across campus to gauge their thoughts and feelings.

– Ben Weyman

Classroom

Joellina Stewart was on her way to class during her in-between break. She said “that it’s really weird to see people’s faces; the majority of people in class are not wearing masks, I am just to be extra cautious. It is also weird to see people’s faces, whether they grew facial hair or remember what they look like. Same thing with the professors.”

Stewart had a few things to say about the education of York College. She says “it was really difficult doing online classes at the beginning of the pandemic, which caused me to become distracted. As being a visual learner, the hybrid classes did not help me as a learn as much, even if it was to help spread out people and the contact to a minimum.”

Allie Prizer was walking back to her apartment after a stressful Monday. She said, “I had gotten COVID twice, which was awful. The first time was the beginning of my clinical and because I got COVID I failed, pushing me back to be here another semester. Missing all of the orientation days, failing exams for clinicals and just overall being tired from being sick. Then I got COVID the day we were supposed to come back to school, missing out on all the lab experiments, to then be sent out to the hospital with little experience.”

The second memorable experience took place in the hospital during clinicals. “Taking care of COVID patients sucks. It’s even worse when most of the people were not vaccinated and could have prevented themselves from being as sick as they were,” she said.

She talked about the last two years, being in the last class to have a semi normal first year and a full “regular” semester before the pandemic. Transitioning to online in the beginning of the pandemic was rough, she said, as the students and teachers all struggled to figure out a proper schooling system. From her perspective, she wished the school had done some things differently. “Other schools handled the pandemic on campus a lot better,” she said.

– Vaughntay McGraw

Grumbacher, morning

As students walk into the Grumbacher at York College early Monday morning it looks a little different than it has the past two years. Saul Sanjuan, a senior in Computer Science, said COVID had changed his life in terms of personal experiences and family-related issues. “It has been really hard, while at first it was really hard to adapt to because it’s something that my generation has never experienced and it was more stressful to deal with.”

He then positively added, “Finally being able to kind of go back to normal, I could say it’s been better and that’s what I want to see.”

Bobby Sautner, a junior Marketing major, responded to a question on what it is like to walk around campus and in classrooms and see no more masks. “Honestly, it’s a great feeling to see no more masks, numbers going down, and mask regulations being dropped,” he said.

This feeling wasn’t unique to Sanjuan and Sautner, as it has been a positive environment so far on campus. It looks like many more people are happy and smiling again in the classrooms and many students have been meeting outside to enjoy the maskless York College campus.

– Andrew Reever

Schmidt Library, afternoon

Josh Turner: ‘This new rule will make participating for everyone easier.” (Photo by Chris Hulsart)

With Monday being the first day where the rule of optional masks was put into effect, the Schmidt Library on main campus was an ideal place to see how popular the decision was because of all the foot traffic. For the most part everyone was unmasked and multiple audible comments were made where students stated their approval.

One such student was freshman Josh Turner. “I’m very excited to go back to school with no masks because it has been so long since I was able to walk around and see everyone’s faces.” Turner thinks it will help everyone on campus too. “I think the masks hindered people talking in class, so this new rule will make participating for everyone easier.”

As the day went on, it was more of the same. Even though the rule is relatively new, it was like second nature for students. However, everyone is still considerate of others. Maskless junior Kevin Tanzosh said, “If someone in here asked me to put a mask on because I am near them, I absolutely would.”

– Chris Hulsart

Grumbacher, afternoon

Alex Lema: ‘It’s nice to see people’s mouths again when they talk.’ (Photo by Zach Siegel)

Alex Lema, a senior Engineering major, said he was enjoying seeing everyone’s full face again. “It’s nice to see people’s mouths again when they talk, it was sometimes hard to tell who was talking,” he said, then followed up by expressing how glad he was that he can now be rid of the discomfort he felt while wearing them in classes.

Lema also shared two things that he won’t forget about the pandemic, the Zoom meetings he shared with friends while quarantining and when he learned a popular Tik-Tok dance and had his video posted on the YCP Recreation Instagram.

Raquell Jaoude (Photo by Zach Siegel)

Raquel Jaoude was also at Grumbacher on Monday afternoon. “That first semester in the pandemic was awful. I’ve never failed that many classes in a semester,” she said. Still, it didn’t mess up her academic path, as she will be graduating this semester with a degree in Political Science.

– Zach Siegel

Dining hall, around noon

Ryan Makowsi, a senior Marketing Major at York College, was walking out the dining hall after having lunch. He said this about how his past two years have been.

“Overall, the last two years have been an adjustment but haven’t been too crazy. I didn’t mind the masks,” he said.

When being asked about how the the pandemic has changed his life he responded by saying that “the pandemic didn’t really change my perspective. Generally, people panicked and acted normally, the mask debate got annoying but most people just wanted to be safe.”

Makowski described his experience on being able to see faces without masks in the classroom. “It was a little weird seeing faces because we’re so used to being distant and covered, but there was an indirect normalcy that we all snapped back into,” he said.

As for the two things he’ll remember from the pandemic he said, “The mask debate and the confusion in the beginning.”

Lastly, he said that the pandemic “impacted my education tremendously. Most of us in college didn’t get the most out of it. Rather than having hands-on work and classroom learning, it seemed less engaging and we didn’t have an ability to reach our full potential.”

– Ulices Samaniego

Dining hall, early afternoon

The dining hall, around lunchtime Monday. (Photo by Ulices Samaniego)

Lora Snyder was sitting in the dining hall enjoying a late lunch. As the Administrative Assistant of the Office of Student Activities and Orientation (OSAO), she is always interacting with students. She says that she will always remember having to wear a mask through this pandemic, and how it affected students.

“The masks brought out different sides of people. You could see who was uncomfortable in not wearing them and who did not want to be wearing them.” She said that when the whole thing started it just kind of took over the world and put such a fear in people. “Fear of the unknown … some were uncomfortable going to classes or even coming to campus.”

Snyder said she does not believe education for the students was affected that much, but many had different comfort levels in the classroom that was the part that affected students the most. Some did not want to go to classes, fearing they would get sick even while wearing a mask.

Meanwhile, Josiah Williams was sitting at a booth in Johnson Dining Hall when he recounted how the pandemic affected him.

“My education wasn’t really impacted negatively,” he said. “It wasn’t that big of a deal to wear a mask in the classroom for me.” He says that he adjusted to the new normal and did not let it affect his education.

– ­­Breanna Hoffner

Courtyard

Senior Hana Yoseph was on the way to her second class Monday morning. She said that “it’s been weird to look around and not seeing people wearing their masks in the classroom.

“I personally want to wear my masks just because I don’t know … I feel a little cautious, but it does feel nice too at the same time just ‘cause you haven’t seen anyone’s face in a hot minute.

In class, Dr. Javier Aguayo said that “it’s nice to see all of your faces. I don’t think I would have been able to identify some of you walking down the street [without masks on].” He continued while passing out an in-class assignment that it has been interesting to see people’s faces again; sometimes you see people without a mask on and it isn’t what you had thought the bottom half of their face would look like.

Yoseph added, “I know seeing my professor’s faces was interesting being like, ‘oh that’s what they look like,’ but overall I’m OK with it, I guess, as long as I’m wearing mine.”

Many might still continue to wear their masks depending on how comfortable they feel.

But it is nice to be returning back to life before COVID.

– Alyson Hatfield

Starbucks, in Humanities

Corinne Minunni: ‘I didn’t put hand sanitizer on nearly as much as I do now.’ (Photo by Anna-Grace Rowland)

Corinne Minunni was sitting in Starbucks waiting to meet with friends. She said that the past two years have been stressful. “The transition has been a lot to handle.”

“I had to do labs online which for my major is especially hard,” she said in response to having to do nursing classes on Zoom. She said the hardest part was not having access to resources like the testing center.

She said that COVID has made her more considerate of others’ space and hygiene in general saying that “I didn’t put hand sanitizer on nearly as much as I do now.”

In response to the first day back without masks, Minunni said it was kind of weird.

“The past two years I haven’t shown the lower half of my face,” she said.

She said that she still grabbed her mask this morning as a “force of habit, like it’s a part of [her] routine.”

What will she always remember from the pandemic? How strange it was going to the grocery store and seeing empty shelves, she said.

– Anna-Grace Rowland

Classroom

Hanna Rudick, even though glad she gets to see everyone’s smiling faces once again for the first time, said it was a bit odd to look around and see everyone’s faces after only seeing people with masks on for over a year.

When asked how the pandemic changed her life in terms of perspective she says it definitely has made her more patient and compassionate with others. “It is and was a very scary time and I think we all needed some compassion,” she said.

Rudick also mentioned that the pandemic definitely affected her focus within education. “There were some classes that were really suited to being taught virtually or during the pandemic, but the ones that weren’t, made it so hard to focus on the work I needed to do”

Another student, Tate Miller, said the pandemic has opened him to being more cautious about his daily life. “I still find myself washing my hands more often, wiping down high contact surfaces and being more aware of my surroundings,” he said.

Miller said that he found himself becoming lazier and taking more days to sit in his room and Zoom into class rather than going in person so he didn’t have to pay as much attention when the pandemic hit.

“It’s so nice to finally be back and see everyone’s actual faces and not masks,” he said.

– Autumn Miller

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