Mask mandates are back on campus. But they go against CDC guidance.

As Philadelphia becomes the 'first major U.S. city' to reinstate its mask mandate, several university campuses are reintroducing mask mandates.

Below is an overview of the new mandates and how these rules stack up against Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for masking based on geographical location.

As Philadelphia becomes the "first major U.S. city" to reinstate its mask mandate, according to KYW Radio Philadelphia, several university campuses are reintroducing mask mandates. 

Below is an overview of the new mandates and how these rules stack up against Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for masking based on geographical location. 

Masking Returns 

Columbia University, American University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, and Johns Hopkins University have all announced indoor mask mandates starting this April.

In a press release, Columbia cited “an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases in New York City” as to why the administration chose to reinstate the mask mandate for the rest of the semester, admitting, “this has not been associated as of yet with a commensurate increase in hospitalizations in New York City, an important and more reliable metric of the status of the pandemic.”

Instructors at the Ivy League school will not be required to wear a face-covering while lecturing. 

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

Johns Hopkins University’s mandate comes after reports surfaced that “nearly 100” students caught COVID-19 while on spring break. The school will additionally require all undergraduate students to test for the virus twice a week until at least April 22.

American University’s mask mandate will last until at least May 9, George Washington University’s mandate will last through the end of the semester including commencement ceremonies, and Georgetown University’s mandate will be in effect “until further notice.”

CDC Recommendations 

The CDC recommends individual-and-household prevention behaviors and community-level prevention strategies based on its COVID-19 Community Levels, a three-tiered classification that is a "measure of the impact of COVID-19 illness on health and healthcare systems.”

The CDC currently considers three metrics to determine a region’s COVID-19 Community Level: “New COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days.”

At the Low Community Level, the CDC does not recommend the use of a face covering. At the Medium Level, the CDC recommends that the immunocompromised talk to their healthcare provider about whether to wear a mask and that those who “have household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease” should “consider wearing a mask when indoors” with the high-risk individual. At the High Level, masks are recommended indoors regardless of vaccination status.

Washington DC, where American University, George Washington University, and Georgetown University reside, is under a Low Community Level. The current case rate in DC is 142.4 per 100,000 people, there are 2 new hospital admissions per 100,000 people, and 1.6% of staffed inpatient beds in the county are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Baltimore County, where Johns Hopkins University resides, is also under a Low Community Level with a case rate of 33.36 per 100,000 people, 3.4 new hospital admissions per 100,000 people, and 1.6% of staffed inpatient beds in the county occupied by COVID-19 patients.

[RELATED: Anonymous Twitter account encourages students to submit pictures of maskless classmates]

New York County, where Columbia University resides, faces a Medium Community Level. Currently, the case rate is 238.04 per 100,000 people, there are 3.3 new hospital admissions per 100,000 people, and 1.6% of staffed inpatient beds in the county are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

For counties with under 200 new cases per 100,000 such as Baltimore County and Washington DC, in order to go from Low Community Level to Medium Community Level, the jurisdictions would need to see an increase in new hospital admissions to 10 per 100,000 and an increase in the percentage of staffed inpatient beds in the county occupied by COVID-19 patients increase to 10%.

For counties with over 200 new cases per 100,000 such as New York County, they begin at the Medium Level and would need to surpass 10 new hospital admissions per 100,000 and 10% of staffed inpatient beds in the county being occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Campus Reform reached out to Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, and Georgetown University for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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