Abigail Harrison, News Editor
Masked instruction returned to campus this week as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the area.
President Killingsworth released an updated mask requirement on Monday. According to the statement, masks must be worn in all buildings on campus except when working alone in offices, eating or drinking, or exercising.
“After reviewing our current COVID-19 infection rates due to the Omicron variant of the virus, the university will be reinstating a mask requirement for all campus buildings effective Wednesday, January 12, to Friday, January 28,” Killingsworth wrote in the statement.
According to Chief Michael Barton, Director of Public Safety, several faculty and staff members expressed concerns with the previous mask policy, which went into effect on Nov. 29 and left the option of masking to the discretion of individual faculty and staff members.
Dr. Teresa Reed, English Professor, mentioned her feelings about the previous policy.
“To be honest, I was scared and mad when the initial announcement was made, that we would continue with masks not being mandated across campus but with individual faculty members having the option to require masks in their classrooms,” Reed said. “To me, it seemed the university had not taken a simple step to provide a layer of protection that would benefit everybody.”
With the new policy in effect, Dr. Jennie Vaughn, Assistant English Professor, said she feels the institution-wide policy was the best decision because it shows that JSU is a campus that looks out for its community members.
“As we have been told by health officials worldwide, masking is a primary precaution for preventing the spread of Covid and its variants. Of course it’s inconvenient and not ideal for teaching, but I want to keep my family, my students, and myself safe,” Vaughn said.
However, some on campus argue wearing a mask should be an individual choice. Mr. Chris Hosmer, Distinguished Instructor for the Department of Music, said he believes the previous policy was the right decision for the university.
“We should be able to decide for ourselves if we need the masks,” Hosmer said. “I appreciated that the university was willing to trust in our own decision making skills. I was planning on asking my class if they wanted to wear masks in the class. Then I would have some options to accommodate individuals.”
According to Barton, the university considers three metrics when deciding COVID-19 procedures. These metrics include the number of cases on campus, the number of local hospitalizations, and the number of deaths in the state.
“At the end of the day, it’s not a vote by popular demand of do we mask or not mask. The factors we look at have not changed,” Barton said.
Barton said as cases rise on campus, students can help by getting vaccinated. The university has held several vaccine clinics, and Barton estimates that 39 percent of the campus population is vaccinated based on the incentive program results.
Students can keep an eye out for future vaccine opportunities announced by the university.