Saint Mary’s relaxes masking policies
Observer Staff Report | Friday, February 11, 2022
In a Friday afternoon email to the Saint Mary’s community, the COVID Response Team announced all students and employees who are up to date on their vaccinations — including the booster, if eligible — can remove their masks indoors, effectively immediately.
The announcement comes two weeks after Saint Mary’s announced an extension to their indoor masking requirement until Feb. 14.
COVID Response Team chair Mona Bowe noted the decision was made based on the College’s booster compliance and low infection rates.
“Because of the current trajectory of these important metrics, we feel confident relaxing our masking policy to our fall semester standards,” Bowe said.
To remain in compliance with Saint Mary’s vaccination policy, eligible students had to provide proof of vaccination by Jan. 21.
As of Feb. 7, 92% of eligible students and 91% of employees had received their booster vaccination, per the email. In addition, between Jan. 31 and Feb. 11, there have only been four positive student cases.
Bowe said these statistics are similar to national and local trends.
“These numbers mirror national trends, as the Omicron variant seems to be subsiding,” she said. “Our county health numbers also continue to drop at satisfying rates.”
While the College community is permitted to unmask in most public places, masks are still required in classrooms for students regardless of vaccination status and faculty who are not up to date with the COVID-19 vaccine.
While faculty who are up to date on their COVID vaccination are permitted to unmask, they do not have the discretion to allow students to unmask, the email said.
Other notable exceptions to the policy include when a mask is requested in a private office and during lectures and performances.
If an individual is a recent close contact, recently released from quarantine or isolation, unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccines, they need to continue masking, according to the email.
Saint Mary’s and tri-campus students, as well as faculty and staff, do not have to wear in private residence halls rooms or other public spaces, unless they are required to mask through the College’s policy.
Bowe reminded students that no other visitors are allowed in private residence halls rooms.
“At this time, other than the populations outlined above, no other visitors, including parents, are allowed in private residence halls rooms,” she said. “We will continue to revisit this policy as the semester progresses.”
Bowe noted that all meetings can be held in person, at the discretion of the organizer. All participants are required to follow masking policies and are encouraged to wear masks if they feel more comfortable doing so.
Eating and drinking
Beginning Feb. 15, food and drink will be allowed at student and employee activities and meetings.
In addition, Campus Dining will no longer provide carry-out containers as an alternative dining option, effective immediately.
Bowe stated the College will continue to revisit the food and drink policy as the semester continues.
All visitors, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear masks and are allowed in any campus building with the exception of private residence halls.
In the email, Bowe thanked the College community for their continued dedication to following COVID protocols.
“We hope this is welcome news, and we thank you for your continued commitment to keeping our campus healthy,” Bowe said. “It is because of your commendable actions that we are where we are today.”