Editorial: NYU lifted its mask mandate, but now isn’t the time to be idle

COVID-19 still poses a substantial risk. Keeping up with masking and testing is critical for ensuring the safety of others.


Samson Tu

(Samson Tu for WSN)

WSN Editorial Board

NYU announced earlier this week that its mask mandate will be dropped on Wednesday, Sept. 28, with very few exceptions. But even with the success that NYU has seen in reducing the spread of COVID-19, now is not the time to become apathetic. The university may have lifted its mask requirement in classrooms, but it should not ease all COVID-19 accommodations.

Because of the updated policy, a rise in cases over the next few weeks is highly likely — and the university should be courteous of that risk. Many students don’t feel comfortable going to class if they are immunocompromised or are otherwise at high risk from contracting COVID-19. Testing must remain as accessible and quick as it has been in order to maintain an easing of COVID-19 policies.

As of now, professors are not required to offer a Zoom option for courses, though they are advised to accommodate students who have missed assignments and classwork due to quarantine. They will not be accommodating students awaiting results after exposure to the virus. A Zoom option should be allowed in certain circumstances, such as when a student is awaiting COVID-19 testing, has contracted the virus or has another medical reason.

In some ways, NYU lifting the mask mandate was inevitable. The university relaxed the policy in all non-obligatory spaces in March of this year, and had announced during the summer that it would reevaluate the policy again at the end of September.

NYU has been more cautious than most universities regarding its masking requirement and is far behind the trend for easing restrictions. Other colleges in the city, such as Columbia University and the City University of New York, had already removed their mask mandates for indoor classes earlier this year. New York City public schools only recommended masks for their students, with the exception of those who have tested positive for the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its mask mandate for public transportation back in February.

Many people are not wearing masks in mask-optional NYU spaces, and even fewer are wearing them around the city. Even in Bobst Library, where mask wearing was still required under the most recent guidance from this March, many students and employees have neglected to wear a mask.

Mask wearing is now a choice. Those who choose to wear masks will be side-by-side in lecture halls with those who don’t. As much as professors and other students will encourage mask wearing, many students will choose not to wear them — students were attending classes maskless despite the mandate. NYU is giving students autonomy with this decision, but not permission to ostracize those who choose to continue masking. Be courteous of students who continue to wear masks, and be courteous of those who choose to leave them behind.

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