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Westminster updates mask protocols to align with new CDC guidelines

A box of individually packaged N95 masks placed in front of the Dean of Students Office in the Shaw Student Center, Jan. 13. Westminster College implemented changes to its mask policy which began Feb. 21 and will be revisited after spring break, according to a schoolwide email sent by Glenn Smith, the dean of students and vice president for student affairs.Photo courtesy of Q W. Image description: a hand holds up masks individually wrapped in plastic.

With continued drops in COVID-19 case numbers and lower hospitalizations in Utah, Westminster College announced in a Feb. 17 email it would be implementing changes to its mask policy, starting Feb. 21. Mask policies will mainly impact residence halls, eating environments and small events with more relaxed regulations.

The updated policy, as decided on by Westminster’s COVID-19 working group, includes:

  • Masks are optional in residential halls and shared spaces
    • Masks are still required for non-residents and those not fully vaccinated
  • Masks are required in all other indoor shared spaces, including classrooms
  • Eating and drinking still not allowed in classrooms
  • Masks may be briefly removed to eat and drink in shared indoor spaces such as Giovale Library
  • Masks are optional for outdoor events

These adjustments began Feb. 21 and will be revisited after spring break, according to a schoolwide email sent by Glenn Smith, the dean of students and vice president for student affairs. 

“Most [folks] have no doubt seen the change in the [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines,” Smith said. “This will change our approach, so look for another announcement regarding loosening masking policies on campus very soon — maybe before spring break.”

The CDC released new guidelines for measuring COVID-19’s impact on community levels Feb. 25. 

“This new framework moves beyond just looking at cases and test positivity to evaluate factors that reflect the severity of disease, including hospitalizations and hospital capacity, and helps to determine whether the level of COVID-19 and severe disease are low, medium or high in a community,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC in a Feb. 25 press briefing.

Moving Forward on Campus

“It will be difficult to completely drop all aspects of the mask mandate as classrooms will continue to be an important issue,” Smith said. “Students and faculty do not have a choice to be in class or not, so that will definitely be the last place we might loosen up.”

Smith said he wants to hope for normalcy.

“I think people will also have the option to wear a mask and we hope that people will opt to stay home when they are sick with anything potentially infectious — not just COVID,” Smith said.

The college will remain flexible to the unpredictability of COVID-19 with the working group on campus still meeting biweekly to assess the college’s needs, according to Smith. 

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