Union College drops mask mandate after two years of COVID-19 pandemic


Union College’s COVID-19 dashboard as of Thursday, March 3.

Dante Sasso, Editor-in-Chief

In an email sent to the campus via the COVID-19 Updates account, Union College announced that the mask mandate will no longer be in effect starting March 12, 2022. This announcement comes after nearly two years of COVID-19 altering the protocols at Union College, starting in the spring term of 2020.

According to the email, sent on March 2, “over the past few weeks, transmission of, and hospitalizations caused by, the COVID-19 omicron variant have decreased significantly across much of the country and in Schenectady County.” These trends have led the college to drop the mask mandate in all spaces at Union College, with the expectation that “[the college] will remain mask-optional for the remainder of the academic year.”

This alteration of the mask policy is in line with the recent announcement by New York State Governor Kathy Hochul that K-12 public schools in New York would no longer require masking after March 2. Governor Hochul explained that because of “the steady decline over the past several weeks in cases and hospitalizations from Omicron” and the high vaccination rate in New York, “we can confidently remove the statewide mask requirement in our schools.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has also labeled Schenectady County as having a low COVID-19 community level, which means that usage of masks in Schenectady County is considered optional.

The email from the COVID-19 Updates account explains that Union has also seen a decline in transmission from the Omicron variant, which matches the results from the Union College COVID-19 dashboard. The week of February 20 saw a total of 45 positive cases between students, faculty and staff, while the week of February 13 saw a total of 55 cases. In regards to testing, the email from the COVID-19 Updates account did not offer any updated guidance as to how weekly testing will proceed.

For those who may be worried about their own health or the health of others following this change, the email also explained that Union College will be providing N-95 masks to those who want them. According to the email, “public health experts advise [the college] that fitted N95 masks are an effective tool against [COVID-19] infection, even when in a room with unmasked individuals.”

The email from the COVID-19 updates account concluded with an assurance that the college “will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and, as we have done throughout the pandemic, we won’t hesitate to adjust our approach as circumstances warrant.”

Update 3/5/2022On Friday, March 4, the COVID-19 Updates account sent a follow-up email to the campus regarding testing during the 2022 spring term. According to the email, students will be required once again to have tested negative 72 hours prior to returning to campus. In addition, all students, staff, and faculty will be required to test for the first two weeks of the spring term, once each week. After the initial testing period, campus members will no longer be required to test. COVID-19 tests will still be available once a week for voluntary testing.

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