Students adapt to a maskless campus for the first time


Emily Soto

A mix of masked and unmasked students sit in the Schmitt Academic Center. With the new mandate, this space would be mask optional for everyone.

This week marks the first two weeks since students could come on campus without a mask.

The change came on the tide of both Chicago and Illinois dropping their respective mask mandates on Feb. 28. Chicago and Illinois as a whole have been seeing declining Covid-19 numbers, which DePaul Professor of Immunology Phillip Funk saw as the reason making this possible.

“All the data is trending down, infections, hospitalizations and ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients,” Funk said. “The last estimate I saw was that between 80 and 90 percent of the population has some level of immunity from either vaccination or exposure. Given that cases have typically dropped in warmer weather it seems like we can expect the spring weather to help.”

Eighty-one percent of people in Illinois have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at this point and around 95 percent of Chicagoans could have some form of immunity according to Chicago health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. The average daily cases in Chicago are down to 138, which is much lower than this year’s peak average of 6,988 cases after the new year began.

These are the reasons why DePaul students have been comfortable with the changes that DePaul is making. DePaul junior Simi Hill trusts the school and city to make the right decisions when it comes to the mandates.

“The choice to drop their mask mandates overall makes sense given the City of Chicago also choosing to go in that direction,” Hill said. “The use of masks only on school property seems like it would be much less effective if the rest of Chicago is not also following this guideline.”

Last week, DePaul released a Newsline article, Creating a Mask-friendly campus at DePaul, encouraging DePaul students to wear masks when asked to.

“Those who are immunocompromised or who live with people who are immunocompromised or with children who cannot yet receive vaccines may be fearful of working in mask-less settings,” the article stated. “With this in mind, DePaul will work to maintain a mask-friendly campus. Out of respect for one another and in the spirit of Take Care DePaul, if you are joining a meeting or gathering and a participant asks you to wear a mask, please do so.”

For many, this is a very different sight for a lot of DePaul students who started in 2020 and 2021, who have only known a masked campus. Most freshman and sophomores at DePaul have never experienced campus without a mask on before.

DePaul senior Peter Fossa, is happy to finally be able to walk around campus and workout without a mask again.

“It’s made my life easier, it’s nice that it’s only in classes, because it doesn’t make sense if I’m just passing someone in the hallway,” Fossa said. “It’s especially nice at the Ray, because I’m finally able to breathe.”

But other students like Hill will continue to wear their mask out of concern for others, or his own personal safety.

“I will continue to wear a mask if it helps anyone feel comfortable,” Hill said. “I think the vaccination requirement is overall very effective specifically for DePaul students.”

Since March 1, all DePaul students and faculty have been required to have the booster to be on campus at all. These types of guidelines gave Hill the confidence to be on campus without worrying.

In spite of all these changes, life on campus has still remained business as usual for most of the students and faculty. Funk doesn’t feel like much has really changed in his daily life yet.

“Many people have been teaching remotely and working from home to the extent possible,” Funk said. “In the buildings most people are still masking and I suspect that will continue for a while.”

This most likely won’t be the end of this change either, as DePaul left the door open for a totally maskless campus in their original statement about dropping the mask mandate outside of classes.

“To avoid disruption, DePaul will continue to require masks in classrooms and labs at least until the end of winter quarter,” DePaul’s statement read.

Correction (3/22/2022): A previous version of this story misspelled Dr. Allison’s Arwady’s last name as “Awady.” A correction has been issued to accurately spell Arwady’s last name.