Some colleges relax mask mandates following new CDC guidance

by Jeremy

Dive Brief:

  • Some colleges are scaling back their requirements for people to wear face coverings on campus following the release of new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • The adjusted mandates are coming with caveats. Those include that masks only be taken off outdoors, or that they must be worn in large groups. 

  • Campuses are still working through their safety protocols for the fall, though a growing contingent is requiring students to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Dive Insight:

Late last month, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated individuals don’t need to wear a face mask outdoors, except in crowded settings. The CDC continues to recommend they wear masks in public indoor settings.

The new public health guidance prompted some jurisdictions and states to ease their mask mandates for outdoor spaces — and some colleges followed suit. 

Duke University, in North Carolina, won’t ask students, employees or visitors to wear masks outdoors, except in crowds or during gatherings where physical distancing isn’t possible. 

Similarly, Rice University, in Texas, won’t require masks outdoors, except for cases in which people can’t maintain 3 feet of distance. And Johns Hopkins University, in Maryland, also won’t mandate masks outside, as long as individuals are 6 feet apart.

But Trine University, a private institution in Indiana, said it would make mask-wearing optional indoors and outdoors, though it would continue certain coronavirus safety measures, including coronavirus testing and temperature checks for students on campus this summer. Trine’s graduation ceremony is Saturday, and it will require masks there. 

Mississippi State University is also making masks optional in some indoor spaces, though not classrooms and laboratories.

Not every institution is cutting back requirements, though. California Polytechnic State University, for instance, is continuing to require masks on university property, citing state-level public health restrictions.

Colleges are still mapping out their fall plans, and while many have yet to announce their safety protocols, a large number are requiring students to get vaccinated. 

Many legal scholars say institutions can do so. However, the three shots being administered in the U.S. have only received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization, which puts colleges’ vaccine requirements in new legal territory.

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