By Zach Penque
The deadline to get the COVID-19 vaccine has passed for students and faculty at NU. Those who failed to provide proof of vaccination status, unless exempt, are now in direct violation of the Student Conduct System. Fortunately, it is reported that over 94% of the student population has received their shots. Despite this, students and faculty are still required to wear face-coverings while on campus.
The news about the updated mask policy arrived just two days before the vaccine deadline, Oct. 1, in an email sent to students. It was very brief; however, it outlined that NU is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advice, and is taking Niagara County’s Department of Health recommendation to still wear a mask indoors.
According to the CDC, it’s still possible to get COVID-19 and its delta variant, even with a vaccine. On their website, they say that if someone exposes themselves to a high-risk environment, they should be wearing a mask to prevent further spread. They also say that even though being vaccinated greatly reduces the effects of the virus, it does not completely stop it.
However, some students feel as if getting the vaccine was all for nothing. In an interview with The Niagara Wire, NU sophomore Tyler Stevenson, expressed his opinion on the matter.
“I don’t know why I got the vaccination in the first place if I still have to wear a mask.”
He later added, “But for Niagara University purposes, I know some students got it just so they could attend school. Me personally, I kinda expected that I would still have to wear them. My one professor said she would still require them before we got the email.”
While Tyler may not be alone in his opinion, others believe that NU has a logical and reasonable concern about the campus’s safety.
Dr. Kathleen McGrath, associate professor and director of the department of advanced teacher education, said continuing to wear masks will help prevent students from learning remotely again. Although most of her classes were hybrid to begin with, she still saw the impact online learning had on students’ education.
In a statement, McGrath said, “I can only imagine that a mask mandate would be put in place to protect aging faculty and students in high-risk categories. … And to keep courses on campus, delivered through a face-to-face format, for as long as possible. The March 2020 shift to online course delivery was pretty traumatic for everybody. I imagine the university is trying to avoid a repeat of that at all costs, while trying to ensure a safe environment for the vulnerable.”
NU continues to monitor the situation, but will require masks for the remainder of the fall semester. It is unclear as to whether or not masks will be required in the spring semester, but students should be prepared to keep wearing them. As for now, students can keep their masks off when they are eating at a table, or in an enclosed space.
The Niagara Wire has made multiple attempts to reach out to NU for comments, and has yet to receive an official statement.