New mask requirement leaves students concerned


Maddy Maes

DePaul students wear a variety of types of masks around campus including surgical, cloth, and KN95 masks

DePaul’s updated mask requirement announcement left some students with a bad taste in their mouth.

The announcement alerted students, faculty and staff that they are required to wear medical-grade masks like a KN-95 mask or an N-95 mask, or to double mask with a cloth and surgical mask. Tight-fitting surgical masks are also okay to wear.

The news came out Jan. 13, less than a week before in-person classes resumed. Students and faculty were not made aware of the update to the mask requirement before then.

Sophomore Benny Wong said he was also not expecting the update to the mask requirement.

“It was a little bit of a surprise, I thought we would stick with being able to wear a cloth or surgical mask,” Wong said. “I didn’t have to [go out and buy a new mask] because my parents already had some so they gave me some to use, but I was lucky.”

Freshman Maia Palomar was glad to see the university implement an update.

“I definitely agree with updating the mask requirement, and I personally hoped it would happen,” Palomar said. “I’m also glad that boosters are now required, I think it’s just one more way of helping keep everyone safe.”

Freshman Humna Farid said she was surprised when she received the notification about the mask requirement changing. She didn’t know updating the mask requirement was possible.

“I wasn’t aware it was going to happen until we all got that email,” Farid said. “It was unexpected for me and kind of surprising, because I didn’t know they could change the mask policy, and I had never heard of that happening before.”

Although she was happy about the new requirement,  Farid said she wished the update was mentioned sooner rather than later.

“I think they should have notified us about it sooner,” Farid said. “I feel like they updated it to make it safer for us to be back on campus, so I’m fine with it being updated, I just wish we were notified sooner and had more time to find the masks.”

Medical-grade masks are expensive and are sold out in many stores around the country, so people are relying on online purchases and deliveries. KN95 masks can average $38 for a pack of 25 masks and N95 are $60 for a pack of 25 masks. Medical-grade masks can be worn a maximum of five times, then are suggested to be thrown away and traded for a new mask.

To counter the lack of medical-grade masks a student may have, DePaul is giving away KN-95 masks for free at specific locations on both campuses. These masks can be found on the Loop Campus at the Public Safety desks in the CDM Center, the Daley Building at both entrances, the Lewis Center and DePaul Center. On the Lincoln Park campus, masks can be found in the Holtschneider Performance Center at the Public Safety desk in the lobby, the Schmitt Academic Center in the Parking Services office in Room 177, the 2400 N. Sheffield Ave. Building in the lobby and the Student Center lobby.

Farid said despite the new requirements, she noticed students and professors in her classes that still wear their masks incorrectly or will not double mask.

“There are always a few students who only wear a surgical mask, don’t double up, and they keep it below their nose,” Farid said. “I think that’s disrespectful to your classmates who are following the rules. I don’t care if people agree or disagree with the new rule, however, they should be following it and respecting their peers and professors.”

Alternatively, Palomar wants to see  faculty and other students holding individuals  accountable if they are wearing their mask incorrectly or not meeting the mask requirement.

“I fully support professors enforcing the mask policy, especially in settings with smaller, more crowded classrooms,” Palomar said. “I think it’s as much of their responsibility to enforce the requirement as it is for people to follow it, everyone has to do their part in keeping others and themselves safe. Two of my professors are very clear about enforcing the requirement, one professor will call students out if they aren’t wearing their mask properly and remind them to pull it up. If a student refuses to do so, they said they have no problem asking them to leave.”

Palomar is concerned about in-person classes as Omicron rapidly spreads.

“I was genuinely concerned to be returning to in-person [classes] given the current spike in cases, and although the new mask requirement has provided some comfort, it doesn’t make me feel entirely safe,” Palomar said, adding that in her lab classes she has noticed less social distancing in the seating arrangements.

“As a person who has classes such as lab which require me to be in person and my grade would be affected by attendance, it adds a greater pressure for me to make sure I stay as safe as possible. It frustrates me because my health could be the determining factor of whether I pass a class, and it feels like being in person, or allowing this to happen, isn’t the smartest choice.”

Farid said if there are going to be in person classes where participation matters, classes should not be filled up to maximum capacity.

“I don’t feel safe because not everyone follows the new mask requirement,” Farid said. “They should stop filling up classrooms with the max capacity, so that students can be spaced out from each other for social distancing.”