Matti Blume via Wikimedia Commons
Two years after the first COVID-19 outbreaks in China, cases of the virus are finally on the decline, with two doses of vaccines and a booster currently available to those aged 5 and older.
After two years of canceled activities, online classes, and serious mask restrictions, parts of the world finally are returning to the way they were before the pandemic.
According to a March 14 U.S. News & World Report articles, only three U.S. states and territories still have mask mandates: Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. On March 7, North Carolina took a huge step forward by dropping its mask mandate for state agencies and facilities.
Guilford College responded to this major step as students returned from spring break. The Guilford Health and Safety Task Force sent an email requiring community-wide COVID testing on March 14 and 15. On March 16, every student received an email notification stating that effective March 21, masks would be optional inside any campus building.
“Faculty, staff, and students have the right to request individuals to wear masks in spaces for which they are responsible,” Guilford College President Kyle Farmbry said in a campuswide email.
This means that faculty can choose to require masks for in-person classes, and staff and faculty can choose to require masks in their offices. Students also can require masks for people who visit their dorm rooms. Overall, the sentiment is that students, faculty and staff all must communicate with each other and be respectful of requests made by each individual.
After such a long time with masks, many are excited about the change.
Chad Phillips, a film professor at Guilford, said dropping the mask requirement on campus can only do more to help the campus return to normalcy. He only has one in-person class this semester and hopes ending the mask mandate will boost energy in the classroom.
Students, however, are a little nervous about the new developments.
Sophomore Daniela Lam is a bit worried about her fellow students, saying: “I feel as if taking masks off will affect students inside of the classroom as I know many still have a strong opinion for requiring them and (are) having understandable concerns for removing them.
“I feel like students will now have to be more careful and have to worry about who is not wearing them, which is a concern that we didn’t have before the decision to remove them since we could rely on others to follow safety rules.”
First-year KJ Adams said “I think taking off masks in the classroom will definitely change the energy of the classroom, but I don’t think behaviors will change to be more productive. Mainly because I’m a student whose work levels won’t necessarily change because of a mask.
“I do think people may feel that the atmosphere is different but in terms of their ability to complete work, might not be affected,” Adams said.
While COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rates have declined, there is still one big question moving forward: Will life ever return to “normal” again? With the loss of the mask mandate, it seems that many are hopeful that there could be some return to normalcy.
“Given that this has been going on for two and a half years now, it’ll take a bit of time before we can successfully get to a point where we can go back to ‘normal’ (life) before the pandemic, but it is possible with everyone’s help,” said Adams. “We just have to keep working towards it.”