Students conflicted about NYU easing mask mandate

As NYU drops its indoor mask mandate for some locations on campus, students express mixed feelings about the university’s decision and the further lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

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Joshua Becker

NYU has lifted mask mandates in certain university spaces. Some students have begun removing their masks in NYU lounges. (Photo by Joshua Becker)

NYU’s decision to drop its indoor mask mandate in some locations starting yesterday has stirred mixed feelings among students over whether the university made the right decision. 

According to the email sent by NYU Senior Leadership, mask wearing will be optional in places where attendance is not required, including gyms, residential hall lounges and common areas of the Kimmel Center for University Life. Masks will remain mandatory in classrooms, library settings, workplaces, university transportation and student healthcare facilities.

[Read more: NYU drops indoor mask mandate for some locations]

Cosette Terriquez, a CAS junior, said that she is skeptical about the decision given the unpredictability of the spread of COVID-19. She believes that many students will continue to wear masks until the end of the spring semester, even where they are no longer required.

“If I’m in a space where everyone’s wearing a mask, even though they don’t have to and I’m not, I might feel kind of guilty about it unless I’m in my own space, decently far from people,” Terriquez said. “There’s no talk of COVID-19 at all anymore, as if it kind of disappeared — even in the news. On one hand it is good, but also it worries me that there might be something coming.” 

New York City has reported a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases caused by the BA.2 subvariant of the omicron variant — now the dominant strain in the county. NYU’s COVID-19 positivity rate was reported as 2.80% between March 21 and March 27.

A group of unmasked, smiling students sit at a table in the Kimmel Center for University Life, pens in hand, writing. Their laptops are open.
Masks are no longer required in Kimmel lounges. (Photo by Joshua Becker)

CAS junior Zoya Hasan said she does not believe the policy will make an impact on whether community members decide to wear their masks indoors. She said she will continue to wear a mask in NYU buildings and believes mask wearing is still important to prevent other students, faculty and staff from becoming infected with COVID-19.

“I would be more scared if they said not to wear it in class,” Hasan said. “I have enough faith in most of the NYU community, but not all of it to keep wearing their masks.”

Hasan does not believe it is time for the university to completely eliminate its indoor mask mandate, as Columbia University and the City University of New York have done. Both universities lifted their mask mandates after New York state in early February and New York City in early March ended their indoor mask wearing requirements.

However, Josh Jensen — an NYU Shanghai senior who is taking classes at the university’s New York campus — said they believe the risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 is low because the majority of NYU students, faculty and staff are vaccinated and boosted. They also said it will be a relief to be able to unmask while exercising in gyms and walking around in residence halls.

“I would stop wearing it as frequently other than where I need to,” Jensen said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. From my understanding of the concerns with the new variants and new cases spreading, the concern is with people who aren’t vaccinated or aren’t boosted.”

CAS sophomore Emma Rodríguez agreed with Jensen, saying that the university has reached a point where it is safe to ease mask restrictions given NYU’s vaccination requirement. However, she plans to wear her mask for the rest of the semester, with the exception of when she is eating indoors.

“Masks don’t bother me at all,” Rodríguez said. “The gyms are the only place that I really wanted the mask mandate to be optional, just because working out with the mask on is just not fun and comfortable.”

NYU plans to monitor campus and city COVID-19 data as they consider the possibility of easing further restrictions.

Maria Freyre contributed reporting.

Contact Gabriel Hawthorne at [email protected] and Carmo Moniz at [email protected]