Opinion: NYU, do not lift the mask mandate
Making masks optional is irresponsible and would put students at risk.
March 9, 2022
With NYU to consider lifting its mask mandate after spring break, they must take into account that lifting the mandate would endanger immunocompromised and disabled students and increase fear and anxiety in an already-stressed student body.
Columbia University announced last week that indoor masking would be optional starting March 14, and Mayor Eric Adams recently reversed several COVID-19 guidelines, including mask requirements in public schools. NYU must not follow suit: The indoor mask mandate should remain in place for the safety of students and staff.
Ciotoli “encouraged students who are immunocompromised to continue to wear masks if NYU’s mask mandate is removed,” WSN reported — but COVID-19 transmission is slowest when all parties are wearing a mask. Chronically ill, disabled and immunocompromised students deserve to feel safe all around campus, including indoors.
Lifting the mask mandate would not only increase the risk of transmission, but would also send the message that protecting vulnerable students is a matter of personal responsibility. Protecting at-risk students during a deadly pandemic should be a collective responsibility — those individuals must not be left to fend for themselves.
Removing the mask mandate in classes would put immunocompromised students in a position of having to choose between staying safe or attending in-person class. Many courses at NYU cannot be properly taught through Zoom nor with social distancing, especially in performing arts programs.
“It’s so dumb and irresponsible and super unfair, the amount of danger they’re putting a lot of students in if they were to lift the mandate,” said Tisch junior Autumn Muñoz, who is immunocompromised. “Especially at Tisch, with the type of stuff we’re doing, I don’t feel comfortable being around people maskless.”
Muñoz, like many students, has had to miss some classes due to chronic illness and doesn’t want to miss more due to fears surrounding COVID-19 safety. Being a chronically ill student in Tisch is already alienating, they said, and being the only student in their classes wearing a mask would add to their feelings of isolation.
“We’re in university — our anxiety is always through the roof,” said senior nursing student Sara Machado. “I think seeing people without a mask might add to that anxiety.”
The responsibility for COVID safety shouldn’t lie with the students who choose to keep masking. As college students in New York City, we are already living like sardines in a can. Class sizes range anywhere from a handful to a few hundred students. Students also often live in close quarters, sometimes with multiple roommates and suitemates. Some people may have faith that their roommates or friends will continue to wear masks when given the option not to, but many others — especially freshmen who are not able to choose their roommates — are not afforded that luxury.
Though we are seeing a decrease in cases and hospitalizations in New York City, the lull has been neither stable enough nor sustained enough to justify getting rid of masks. The current daily average of positive cases in New York City is 687; however, it was only a few weeks ago that we were still looking at daily case numbers in the thousands. Over the pandemic, we have seen a pattern wherein the case numbers have gone down and restrictions have been eased, followed by another spike — this was the case with the emergence of the delta and omicron variants.
COVID-19 isn’t something to be trifled with — just this past Monday, the same day that mask mandates were lifted across New York City, global COVID-related deaths surpassed 6 million. The pandemic is not over. NYU must not act like it is.
Views expressed in the Opinion section do not necessarily reflect those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
Contact Caitlin Hsu at [email protected]