Maintaining masks: The right move for our community


Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Charlotte Bassett

Students hang out while wearing masks inside of Bergami Hall., West Haven

Early last month, New York state removed mask mandates for businesses. This decision occurred right after multiple other states either removed or announced the removal of mask mandates after a national decrease of COVID-19 cases. While the decrease in COVID-19 cases is positive news, the removal of the mask mandate sets a dangerous example that the University of New Haven should not follow, considering the number of immunocompromised students at the university, as well as the recently discovered BA.2 variant.

One concern about removing mask mandates is its effect on immunocompromised individuals. When someone is immunocompromised, their immune system is weaker than that of the general population, putting them at a much greater risk of contracting illnesses like COVID-19. Many people in this population have had to isolate themselves at home; while the rest of the world is moving on from COVID, these people are stuck. Toby Cain, a woman with lymphatic cancer who was interviewed by the New York Times, said, “It’s like living behind a veil while the rest of the world moves forward.”

If the university removes its mask mandates, immunocompromised students could be more at risk of exposure, lost class time, sickness and hospitalization.

Another major issue with the removal of mask mandates is the newly discovered BA.2 variant. A variant of Omicron, BA.2 has been found in 40 countries, including the U.S. It is unknown what effect this variant could have or if the current vaccines give any immunity against it.

A preprint study, meaning it has not yet been peer reviewed, found that the BA.2 variant could potentially cause more serious cases of COVID-19 on par with the Delta variant. It also causes vaccines to be less effective like the Omicron variant. If this ends up being the case, the university’s maintenance of the mask mandate is just further proof of a correct decision..

A CDC study published on Feb. 11 read, “In addition to being up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccinations, consistently wearing a comfortable, well-fitting face mask or respirator in indoor public settings protects against acquisition of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

Regardless of vaccination status COVID-19 remains a dangerous risk for everyone, especially those who are immunocompromised. Discounting a portion of our community, just so people can remove their masks, is heartless and careless. Removing the mandate in this time period of uncertainty would put the university community, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods, at risk; in such an instance, caution takes priority over a slight discomfort, and the university has shown they care.