News, On campus

Tech Lifts Mask Mandate for Vaccinated Individuals

A black, cloth mask sits on a table with a chair in the background.
Some Tech students and faculty have started taking their masks off on campus after Tech
lifted the mask mandate for vaccinated individuals. Photo by Cassandra Pratt.

At 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 26, an email was sent to all of Tech’s community, adjusting the mask regulations on campus: vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks on campus, though some questions remain.

On August 16, three days before classes started, administration informed students and faculty that Tech would “temporarily require masks.” This came after their announcement in the 2021 spring semester, saying that the university would be in Full Flight with few coronavirus regulations, in order to enhance students’ college experience.

Some students expected the regulation to last longer than it did. Emily Barnett, an international business and cultures major, shared her surprise. “I didn’t think the mandate would actually be temporary,” she said. “I was surprised when I heard about the mandate possibly being lifted this semester.”

Barnett shared her thoughts on the timing of Tech loosening mask policies at the start of the cold and flu season. “I would say it probably isn’t the best time to drop the mask mandate . . . but there really won’t ever be a ‘perfect’ time,” she said.

Daniel Brown, computer science and business information technology major, had a different opinion. “Cases are on the downturn, and anyone who wants to be vaccinated can. Cold and flu are endemic viruses that will always be constant threats,” he said.

Brown is right about the decline in cases. According to Tech’s COVID-19 Dashboard, the number of reported cases among students, faculty and staff, had dropped to just 11 cases on Oct. 26, the day the email went out. This was a stark contrast to the spike in cases at Tech on Sept. 10, with numbers reaching 125 cases. On Oct. 20, there were 125 cases in Putnam County as a whole; 20 of them were from Tech.

Although the decline in active cases and the news of fewer mask regulations is exciting, it only applies to vaccinated students. Tech’s methods of determining which students are vaccinated remain unanswered, posing the questions, will unvaccinated students be penalized for not wearing masks? How will they be identified as unvaccinated?

While the news of mask mandates being lifted for vaccinated individuals is exciting, policies regarding other situations remain unanswered.