Universities mandate masks for vaccinated students, employees

With back to school right around the corner, universities have started finalizing their mask policies for the 2021-2022 school year.

The updated mask requirements align with the CDC’s recent announcement recommending vaccinated people still wear masks in certain settings.

The CDC recently announced new recommendations for mask-wearing for individuals who are vaccinated. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Tuesday that “in areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public, indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the delta variant, and protect others.” Walensky added that “this includes schools, including teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status,” according to CNBC.

This update comes just two months after the CDC announced that individuals who are vaccinated don’t have to wear a mask. 

Universities are now putting those updated recommendations into practice. 

Campus Reform has researched some of the most notable mask policies implemented by U.S. colleges and universities for the upcoming school year. 

On July 19, 2021, Georgetown University sent out a message to the community with its “Fall 2021 Public Health Guidelines for Students, Faculty and Staff.” The guidelines state that “individuals, regardless of vaccination status, will wear a mask indoors in University-owned or operated buildings, except when eating or drinking, when alone in a private office or when in your personal residence.”

[RELATED: Monmouth University requires vaccinated students to wear masks for fall semester]

The university goes on to state that they “will continue to monitor public health conditions in our community” and that they “expect to ease the indoor mask requirement if they remain favorable.”

Georgetown University has also required that all students, faculty and staff show proof of a COVID vaccination to be on campus or “in a University-owned or operated building in Washington, DC.”

The mask guidelines also made it clear what type of mask the school recommends, stating that individuals should “wear a surgical-style mask, or other medical-style mask” or even “consider double-masking (cloth mask on top of a surgical-style mask).” The school said it recommends “against wearing a cloth mask alone.”

For those who don’t comply with the mask guidelines, they can be “asked or directed to leave the campus space.” Additionally, “employees and students who are directed to leave a campus space for failure to comply with these Guidelines may be taken off duty and/or subject to disciplinary action in accordance with University policies and the Georgetown University Community Compact.”

Similarly, Central Connecticut State University has required that all students, faculty and staff wear masks in all campus buildings, even though the entire community population will be vaccinated, according to the school’s requirements

The university has allowed for a few exceptions to the mask mandate, giving students the permission to remove their masks:

  • Students are not required to wear face masks when in their residence hall room.
  • Faculty teaching behind plexiglass at a teacher’s station may intermittently remove their mask.
  • Individuals eating in university designated dining areas may remove their mask.
  • Faculty and staff who work in a private office or a cubicle with 60-inch-high walls or plexiglass can remove their mask.
  • During a presentation, individuals who are at a podium at least 12 feet from the audience can remove their mask when speaking.

The school will also require “individuals to maintain 3 feet of distance indoors and outdoors.”

If a student doesn’t abide by the mask policies, a member of faculty or staff can direct the “student to leave classroom/office/area.” They also have the option to “call Student Affairs Office (860) 832-1601 for immediate assistance (and a member of the Student Response Team will be dispatched to the site. The responder will determine if and when CCSU Police assistance is required.”

Montclair State University is requiring all students and employees to wear masks on campus in the fall. This comes even though the school is requiring all of its students to get vaccinated before returning to campus; however, the school “does not require continuing employees to be vaccinated.”

The mask mandate even applies to bathrooms. 

According to the school’s website, masks must be worn at all times in classrooms, health care facilities, all university buses, elevators and even restrooms.

Montclair State University states that “whether you are vaccinated or not, students and employees must wear face coverings indoors whenever it is not possible to keep 6 feet of distance from other people. Masks may be removed when you’re alone in a private room or when you are seated at your workstation with at least 6 feet of distance from others.”

[RELATED: REPORT: Three UMass students suspended after taking photo outdoors without masks]

Duke University is also following this same trend of requiring all students, faculty and staff to wear masks on campus regardless of vaccination status. The school will also be requiring its community members to submit proof of vaccination status before returning to campus in the fall. 

In a letter sent to all university faculty, staff and students on June 28, the school stated that “given the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in North Carolina related to a combination of the Delta variant and the number of people who remain unvaccinated, all individuals will be required to wear face masks in all Duke-owned and leased buildings effective Friday, July 30, until further notice.”

“This requirement applies to all students, faculty, staff and visitors regardless of vaccination status. Masks will not be required in on-campus residence halls where there is a significantly lower risk of exposure for high-risk individuals,” the statement said. 

University administrations aren’t the only ones cracking down on vaccination status and mask policies. One professor from Rutgers University took to Twitter to express his opinion on unvaccinated students.

Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Richard H. Ebright tweeted, “the unvaccinated need to be excluded from public spaces, businesses, and schools.”

This tweet was in response to a CBS video that was tweeted about the NFL saying that “any team that causes a game to be canceled due to COVID outbreaks among unvaccinated players will be responsible for financial losses, could lead to forfeited games — and neither team’s players will be paid.”

Campus Reform reached out to Montclair State University about the policy. Andrew Mees, Media Relations Director, said that the “mask policy is based on CDC recommendations and guidance from the NJ Department of Health. Masks are only required indoors whenever it is not possible to keep 6 feet of distance from people who may not be vaccinated. They may be removed in group settings where there is less than 6 feet of distance as long as everyone in the group is fully vaccinated.”

 The university went on to say that “students and employees who are not vaccinated will be required to wear a mask indoors and outdoors and may only remove it when alone in a private room, eating or drinking, or when seated at a workstation with at least 6 feet of distance from other people.”

“Each day, we are getting a clearer picture of the vaccination status of our community members. We have not yet achieved a 100% vaccination rate - we are at 83% of students registered for fall classes and 81% of full-time employees - and there will be members of our community, including students, faculty and staff, who have or will receive an exemption as permitted by NJ law. Because of this, we have decided to continue mandating masks in order to keep unvaccinated community members safe when they are on campus.”

The school told Campus Reform that it “does not plan to change its mask policy at this time.” The university said it will “continue to monitor the guidance provided to us by federal and state public health authorities, and we will adjust as necessary.”

When asked why the school still mandates masks if they believe the vaccines are safe and effective, the school said that they “are following the best available scientific guidance, which suggests that wearing masks helps slow the spread of the virus.”

Campus Reform reached out to Ebright as well as Georgetown University, Central Connecticut State University, Montclair State University, and Duke University about their policies but did not receive a response in time for publication. Campus Reform will continue to monitor university policies and guidelines for masks and vaccines as the school year continues. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @opheliejacobson