Mask mandate removal changes little for mostly maskless students

NYU dropped its mask mandate for classrooms and the library on Sept. 28, but the number of students wearing masks in Bobst on the first day of the policy reversal barely changed.

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Manasa Gudavalli

(Manasa Gudavalli for WSN)

Katie Groome, Contributing Writer

The end of NYU’s mask mandate on Wednesday doesn’t seem to have changed much for students, most of whom already weren’t wearing masks. As hundreds of students streamed through the front entrance turnstiles of Bobst Library on Sept. 28, the first day on which masks were no longer required in the building, only 32.9% were wearing masks, according to a survey of more than 900 library visitors conducted by WSN. The day before — when masks were still required — 36.3% of students were observed wearing masks.

The 2022-23 school year began with required masking in spaces such as classrooms, Bobst and meetings or events where in-person attendance is obligatory. WSN reported last week that as of Sept. 28, NYU would no longer require masks anywhere on campus, except for in healthcare settings and for students who test positive or are exposed to the virus.

Tandon sophomore Matthew Sclafani was sitting with a friend in the Bobst lobby without a mask on Wednesday afternoon, taking advantage of the new policy. He said he had noticed that fewer students were wearing masks in class, but that the proportion of people wearing masks in other campus spaces was roughly the same. He said that he intends to continue wearing a mask in crowded areas.

“I thought it kind of carried on a little bit too long,” Scalfani said. “To be honest, we're all walking around in New York, so we're going to all go on the subway or something like that and we're going to catch it anyways.”

The end of the two-year-long mask mandate comes with other changes to the university’s COVID-19 policies. This includes the removal of the testing requirement for unvaccinated individuals and an end to restrictions on locations where students can eat on campus. 

Other universities in New York City — including Fordham University and the City University of New York — lifted the last of their masking requirements before NYU. On Sept. 28, Columbia University announced that it will remove all masking requirements on campus by Oct. 1, according to the campus newspaper, the Columbia Spectator.

CAS junior Aliyah Fong, who was also sitting without a mask in the lobby of Bobst on Wednesday, said that she noticed less people wearing masks in the library following the end of the mandate. Despite that, she said that she plans to continue to wear a mask in smaller spaces.

“I'm kind of torn on the mandate,” Fong said. “In wider spaces, like the library, there are more places where you're going to be isolated and you have more distance from people, so I feel OK with that.”

COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations in New York City are decreasing, with a current positivity rate of 9.3% and an average of 45 hospitalizations per day. First-year graduate student Christine Ferrara was eating in the library, but said that she would otherwise be wearing a mask.

“People are going to start to get sick and I just feel like it's an added issue,” Ferreira said. “I've had COVID-19 before and I don't want it again, so yeah, definitely going to have it on.”

Other students said that they support the mandate being lifted because the masking rule was already going unenforced in many locations across campus.

“If anything, I’m happy that it's happening,” Gallatin first-year Hannah Kupferwasser said. “The mask mandate became a little bit redundant when in every other aspect of our lives we’re not wearing a mask. It just seemed like it was losing the point when we couldn’t really connect with our classmates and our teachers by wearing masks when in every other situation we weren’t taking those precautions.”

Abby Wilson and Arnav Binaykia contributed reporting.

Contact Katie Groome at [email protected]