Eliminating mask mandate makes some happy, but concerns persist that change comes too early


Kayla Vasilko

Though PNW has lifted its mask mandate, some students say they are concerned that COVID-19 remains a threat. And, while some students are going mask-free, others say they will keep wearing masks.

The university lifted its facemask mandate on March 14, but students have mixed feelings about the decision.

“I think it is very unsafe,” said Sarah Moyer, a junior English major. “I get that the case numbers have gone down and that PNW itself doesn’t seem to have any cases lately, that I know of. But it was still too soon to lift the policy. A mask continues to be worn on my face.” 

As the number of new cases declined, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened its mask guidance in February.  Several states began dropping mask mandates for schools and businesses. Colleges and universities across the country followed suit.  

COVID-19 testing in Indiana has shown a significant drop in cases.  The state reports Indiana’s positivity rate is about 3% — which means that just 3 out of 100 people tested has the infection — down from nearly 15% in December.

“Based on that information, the Safe Return Task Force recommended to PNW’s Senior Leadership Team that the mask policy could be modified,” said Kristen Falzone, assistant vice chancellor of Marketing. 

Falzone said students have the option to wear face masks if they choose.  That is one reason why the mandate was lifted on March 14, the first day of spring break, when students would likely not be on campus.

 “We [wanted] students to have the time to think about what they want to do when they come back to campus after the break,” she said. 

Some students could not wait to lose their face masks.

“I’ve been sick and tired of having to wear these things for so long and I feel PNW made a good decision by having them be optional,” said freshman Ryan Toth, an Exercise Science major. “That way, students can now be comfortable and maybe have a better time when they’re here, not having to worry about whether they forgot their mask in the car or something.” 

Other students will probably keep the mask handy.

“It depends on the class size,” said Gabriella Castro, a junior Psychology major. “I have a couple classes that are filled completely and a couple more that are almost empty. The crowded classes, I’ve been wearing one, while I haven’t in the not so crowded ones.” 

Though masks are officially optional, Falzone said the university is keeping an eye on trends, just to keep students and staff safe.

 “PNW will continue to monitor the data from the CDC and state and local public health officials, and revise any guidance as needed,” she said.