Lauren Ruth – Staff Writer
This week, Gustavus saw a new masking criterion on campus. Students are now allowed to forgo wearing masks in living spaces such as dorms or dorm buildings. It is still required to wear masks in all other indoor spaces on campus, including classrooms.
Many students are wondering why they are still required to wear them in classes if the college feels it is safe enough not to have them in the dorms. Others are “worr[ied] about the possible uptake in cases because of the new masking criteria,” junior Tessa Pieper said. Gustavus is aware of the risks and has made their decision based on CDC recommendations and on student comfort.
Gustavus’s top priority this year was for students to be learning in person. Another priority is for students and faculty to feel safe doing so. In classrooms, students are generally seated for an extended period in class and are within 6 feet of other people. “Gustavus wanted to keep the mitigation strategy of masking in place for this setting” Barb Taylor, the COVID Response Coordinator, said.
Gustavus has created a new leveling system for masking criteria. Previously, the policy was that masks were either worn everywhere or off everywhere. The new leveling system is more responsive to the current risk level on campus. There are 4 Levels depending on the criteria gathered for risk levels on campus. As the campus moves up the levels, the masking requirements become stricter.
The criteria for moving up levels include positive cases on campus, cases in the surrounding area, and Minnesota COVID-19 hospital admissions. As certain criteria are met, the level of risk increases as does the level of masking criteria. Gustavus is currently at Level 2 where masks are required in all indoor buildings on campus other than one’s residence halls. The masking criteria was developed by the COVID Leadership Team and approved by the President’s Cabinet.
Homecoming looks a bit different this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. Gustavus intentionally tailored the events to be outdoors or in large spaces where social distancing can be employed. Masks do not need to be worn outside on campus, including at the stadium. However, students are encouraged to use masks at their own comfort level.
Social gatherings are an essential part of college life. Gustavus faculty understand that socialization is crucial for student’s mental health and enjoyment of college life. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of the COVID-19 guidelines and recommendations.
“Even though people are tired of COVID, now is not the time to stop worrying about this virus” Larson -Taylor said.
The College recommends that gatherings be outside where students are masked and maintain physical distance between people. It is also important to note to try to keep the gathering small.
Students can help ensure that COVID cases remain low on campus. The COVID Leadership team has some suggestions. The most effective way of reducing the likelihood of contracting and transmitting the virus is by getting vaccinated.
However, vaccinated people are still able to test positive for COVID-19. “The Delta variant is much more contagious than the original virus and Minnesota is seeing high levels across the state,” Larson-Taylor said. Students should test when they develop symptoms or when they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. Continuing in keeping with a smaller circle of contacts is also recommended.
While the college makes recommendations to ensure student safety, it is ultimately up to the students to take responsibility for themselves and the well-being of others in the community. Gustavus is keeping a close eye on COVID-19 cases on campus and in the state. The COVID Leadership team assesses the risk and changes policy accordingly. Following Gustavus, guidelines are the best way to make certain the community is safe and able to have an excellent year.