Masks will not be required outside of classroom, labs


Emily Soto

DePaul updated their mask guidance on Friday, Feb. 25 before the Chicago mask mandate ends on Monday.

DePaul altered its mask mandate to only permit KN95 or N95 masks on Jan. 13. Six weeks later, DePaul is dropping the mandate to only be in classrooms.

DePaul sent out an announcement Friday evening stating they will continue to keep the mask mandate in classes and labs, but students can choose to mask outside of these spaces, according to an email sent by the president’s office.

“To avoid disruption, DePaul will continue to require masks in classrooms and labs at least until the end of winter quarter, Sunday, March 20,” senior administration wrote in a university-wide email. “Outside of these spaces, beginning Feb. 28, masks will be recommended, but not required.”

Going into the third year of the pandemic, the City of Chicago decided to remove its mask mandate Monday, following the footsteps of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s guidelines for the rest of Illinois.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a press conference that the mask mandate, as well as the city’s vaccine requirement, will end Monday due to a drop in Covid-19 cases.

Spaces such as the university library, residence halls and the student center will now be optional to wear masks.

Freshman Charlie Hartenstein got Covid-19 in January along with his roommates and isolated in a separate building. Now a month later, Hartenstein worries about how masks won’t be required in the dorms at all.

“I think there are going to be some people who have the same mindset as me, where do we know that things are going to change?” Hartenstein said. “I definitely got some friends who I can’t imagine wearing it after, but I’ve also got some friends who I can’t imagine not wearing after.”

The guest policy for DePaul dorms still remains the same of only allowing up to two DePaul students or parents/guardians with an ID and vaccination card, but masks will now be optional for everyone — even outside personal rooms.

The fear of cases rising among students isn’t just with freshmen. Amira Hady, a DePaul junior and resident advisor, worries about repeats of Chicago dropping the mandate and the rise of cases after.

“We should get out in front and be proactive by maintaining masks to prevent that eventual peak,” Hady said. “I don’t think a mask mandate should be repealed or even discussed being loosened or being rid of until we can officially say we are not in a pandemic. I don’t think we can officially say that yet.”

In May 2021, Chicago lifted its mask mandate and cases rose to about 600 cases a day. DePaul had made it optional for masks for a brief period during summer classes of 2021. This would be the first time masks would be optional during in-person learning.

Hady is concerned about masks being optional in dorms and around campus.

“This tends to be the time you want to sustain those mandates until things are fully down, so loosening restrictions now only give a chance for a new variant to pop up, and in tandem with governments changing what ‘low’ means relative to Covid, I don’t think it’s the right move at all,” Hady said.

Jordan Stalker, a professor in the College of Communication, hopes DePaul continues to have masks in the classroom for the safety of students.

“The campus is one less place we’ll have to be overly concerned about, even if the bars and the clubs and restaurants and everywhere else is mask optional,” Stalker said. “At least they know that DePaul has more levels of protection for them.”

Stalker also will continue to wear his mask for the safety of his students and family.

“I do feel that it is a little early for the city and the state to be going mask optional,” he said. “Which, again, is why I would not be bothered and [would] be encouraged if DePaul would continue their mask mandate for a little while longer. And if that’s what it is, as optional policies with DePaul decides, then I’ll do my best to continue to wear my own mask while teaching to protect myself and my students and those around me.”

Public entities such as the Chicago Transit Authority, health care facilities and individual private businesses will continue to require masks.

Senior administration said DePaul would revisit this policy after spring break.

“There’s so much more going on that is attached to this pandemic that I think folks need to reconcile the realities and the tangible things that they can hold on to in their life and what it means to have that right in that moment,” Hady said.