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Washington Square News

Washington Square News

Opinion: NYU, do not lift the mask mandate

Making masks optional is irresponsible and would put students at risk.


Samson Tu

Following new COVID-19 guidance, NYU has stated that it will re-evaluate its mask mandate policy after Spring Break. However, the removal of the policy would put immunocompromised and disabled students at risk. (Staff Photo by Samson Tu)

Caitlin Hsu, UTA Publishing Editor

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]

About the Writer
Photo of Caitlin Hsu
Caitlin Hsu, UTA Publishing Editor

Caitlin Hsu is most known for dressing like a cooler version of your dad. If you start a conversation with her, it is almost guaranteed that she'll show...


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  • M

    MeMar 27, 2022 at 8:47 pm

    I could dispute each and every one of its arguments easily if I wanted, but it all comes down to this: immunocompromised students may wear N95 masks for as long as they wish. Covid is NOT deadly anymore for general population. Time to shift this paradigm.

  • M

    Mommyno1Mar 9, 2022 at 8:07 pm

    UTA needs to keep their opinions to themselves on NYU unless you are supporting their changes coming.

  • M

    MicheleMar 9, 2022 at 8:04 pm

    Even the airlines ✈️are planning to withdraw masks by March 18th if approved!!!
    We are no longer in the beginning of this and NYU needs to get with the program that the virus has finally morphed as viruses do. The singers in Broadway do not wear masks as it will hurt the vocal folds by the strain of breathing and forcing more to sing and be heard. IF the basketball team already does not use masks, singers need to be done on stage at NYU as well!! Evan NYC is gradually Snd currently changing policies. Article has no base with students all vaccinated, booster rd and complied with every rule. Time to stop these restraints!

  • M

    MuradMar 9, 2022 at 4:23 pm

    This is by far the most pointless article I have seen on NYU News. Other colleges like Columbia, Ithaca and even CDC probably have some research behind their decision-making, huh?

  • E

    EricMar 9, 2022 at 12:13 pm

    This article is actually pure insanity. You can wear you mask for 10 years if u want I don’t care. But you don’t get to decide what others do anymore. It’s over

  • J

    JamesMar 9, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    It’s funny cause you can continue to wear you mask when we do end the mandate!

  • A

    AndrewMar 9, 2022 at 9:34 am

    This is a horribly ableist article. What about the Hearing Impaired students who have been forced to not attend in-person classes because they can’t understand what is going on? Why are they not mentioned at all here?

    It was incredibly irresponsible of the author to write such an article, in which she presumes to know better than public health experts and the CDC, and such an article should be edited to remove the ableism and misinformation or just taken down.

    • T

      ThomasMar 9, 2022 at 11:00 pm

      If anything, I think it’s ableist of you to assume every Deaf or hard of hearing person needs the same accommodations. Deaf folks are not your monolith, and pointing to an imaginary Deaf person as a scapegoat is frustrating to see, especially from someone clearly so passionate on the issue of ableism.

      As Caitlin makes clear, there are a variety of options which can be implemented and should be looked into, in addition to the possibility of smaller in-person offerings for students who are in medical need of those accommodations. Examples of these accessibility options include, but are not limited to:
      • Hiring live speech-to-text transcribers that can more accurately capture what someone speaking is saying,
      • Providing staff and faculty with optional-use Safe N’Clear Communicator masks or ClearMasks, which are FDA-approved masks with clear panels for greater lip readability,
      • Choosing video call sites like Microsoft Teams or Zoom that allow for video-remote interpreting (VRI), where a paid university-represented interpreter can join a call over video and translate using a full range of emotion and use their lips from their own home, and
      • Additional training for staff and faculty on listening to and interacting with Deaf and hard of hearing students, including emphasis on mutual understanding and teach-back techniques.

      As a fellow advocate for dismantling systemic ableist practices in university settings (I’m disabled and immunocompromised myself), I’m grateful to see that folks at NYU are also such proud proponents. However, it frustrates me to see people use the guise of ableism towards an imaginary other to push their individualistic, self-centered worldview. Deaf people who need in-person accommodations exist, but so do Deaf people who would prefer to take classes over online formats. Why are they not mentioned at all in your comment?

      • A

        AndrewMar 22, 2022 at 12:41 pm

        Sorry, but as a Hearing Impaired person myself, you can shove right off. Your “solution” is to make Hearing Impaired people people jump through a thousand hoops just so you can feel comfortable? That’s peak ableism.

        You clearly understand nothing about the community, and you shouldn’t try and act like you do.