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Delta Variant Motivates Connecticut Colleges to Reinstate Mask Mandate

Central Connecticut State University campus Photo credit: Kristina Vakham (Courtesy CTNewsJunkie.com/file photo)

The University of Hartford and University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford have not posted mask mandates on their websites. The University of Hartford is requiring students to be vaccinated before returning for the fall semester, while USJ is strongly recommending it.

By Nicole McIsaac, CTNewsJunkie.com 

With the new COVID-19 variant surging across the nation, many colleges across the state are reintroducing a mask mandate for the fall semester.

As of last week, the Centers For Disease Control recommended fully vaccinated individuals start wearing masks inside crowded areas again, especially in areas of substantial or high transmission rates.

“Infections in fully vaccinated people (breakthrough infections) happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant,” the CDC wrote on its website. “Moreover, when these infections occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be mild. However, preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who do become infected with the Delta variant can be infectious and can spread the virus to others.”

Reaching a 3% positivity rate earlier this week, Connecticut has become a substantial area for risk of infection and has pushed colleges to re-access previous policies before student arrival.

Yale University announced over the weekend that all individuals must wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, except for when alone in private spaces.

In addition to requiring the vaccine unless approval for exemption, Yale will be regularly testing unvaccinated individuals for safety precautions. There are no other intended protocols besides mask wearing that have been added.

Following similar guidelines, Quinnipiac University sent a letter to its community earlier this week about required mask wearing when inside public campus spaces.

No other changes were made to Quinnipiac’s intended structure for the fall and the school plans on still introducing a sense of normalcy back into its community this school year.

“I don’t see us quarantining dorms, going to a lockdown and moving classes remotely because this high vaccination rate will protect us and the general community,” Quinnipiac’s Senior Medical Advisor David Hill said. “The masks add that extra layer, they give us a little extra protection from this delta variant.”

The mask wearing announcement was released a day after vaccination records were due before the start of the semester, leaving many students questioning the correlation of the two.

Quinnipiac University graduate student Matthew Bruin began an online petition to convince the university to drop the requirement, voicing his frustration behind the school’s recent change to its policy.

“This completely goes against the science and everything that the vaccine was supposed to prevent,” Bruin said. “The mask mandate is just the beginning of the insane regulations that I believe the school is going to pass, and for the amount of money that I paid to go to Quinnipiac, attending class on zoom is not worth the amount of money that Quinnipiac charges.”

As of publication, the petition has over 900 signatures and continues to be spread across the university’s community through social media.

Other students at the school are more focused on the safety aspect of mask wearing, emphasizing how it will not change any experience they were planning on receiving this year.

“I don’t think the mask will affect it too much,” Quinnipiac University student Daniel Passapera said. “I do think if we go back to that era, that’s where we will start questioning if we are paying for what we are supposed to be getting out of our college education and experience.”

The University of New Haven (UNH) and Sacred Heart University have also declared a mask mandate for individuals returning this fall, emphasizing the protection it will add against the highly transmittable structure of the Delta variant.

“While we hope this is a temporary measure, we are unsure how long it will last,” UNH’s COVID-19 Coordinator Anthony Santella said. “Encouraging unvaccinated persons to get vaccinated along with public health mitigation measures such as masks are key to curbing the pandemic.”

Sacred Heart University student Taylor Patnode said although she agrees with the mask mandate to keep the community safe, she is disheartened by the decision after having a sense of normalcy given back to her.

“I am super bummed to have another year of my college years to be impacted by COVID-19,” Patnode said. “Hours before the CDC deemed Fairfield county as a high risk area and the email was sent about the indoor mask mandate, we received an email that life back on campus would finally be normal again due to the vast majority of our student body, professors and staff being vaccinated.”

The University of Connecticut (UConn) had masks already embedded in plans for the fall semester, regardless of vaccination status or previous recommendations about leniency mask wearing.

Some students who attend the school said that although they feel restricted by having to wear masks this fall, the open line of communication between the university and its community have made the entire process understanding and easy to follow.

“It is nice that they are straightforward with their words and we aren’t being told different things week by week,” UConn student Bettina Burke said. “We aren’t having a change up on us and we already know what to expect.”

However, some colleges such as Fairfield University continue to advise that masks are optional for vaccinated students but warn community members to be prepared in case of change.

“The University reserves the right to adjust safety measures (such as mask wearing protocols) if there are high risk conditions (high virus rates, increase in hospitalization, recommendations by local and state health officials, CDC guidance, etc.),” Fairfield’s Vice President of Student Life Karen Donoghue wrote in an email to students last week. “Therefore, please remember to bring masks back to campus this fall.”

Until then, college students across the state gear up for another semester filled with COVID-19 protocols and mask wearing.

Republished with permission from CTNewsJunkie.com, all rights reserved.

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