As Florida A&M University welcomes students back to campus, it should also be welcoming required face coverings.
Not only are students coming from as far as out of the country, but they are also coming unvaccinated. Due to Governor Ron DeSantis’ decision to not enforce a mask mandate for Florida, students are not required to wear a mask on campus. Although face coverings are encouraged by the university, they are not strictly enforced.
Students have anticipated the reopening of campus since the pandemic began. Since Fall 2020, students reported to hybrid classes and attended events virtually. FAMU has required students to submit proof of vaccination or provide a negative COVID-19 test to move into residence halls. Students are still capable of catching and spreading the virus after providing a negative test and receiving full vaccination.
Rattlers are not wearing face coverings but are gathering in large amounts at campus events, parties and clubs. Each student who comes back to campus has a chance of spreading the virus to both unvaccinated and vaccinated students. Even if you are fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages face coverings while inside and in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission. Some students have not received the COVID-19 vaccination and are not getting tested regularly.
During welcome week, rattlers were introduced to infamous campus events like Set Friday, which featured a crab boil, and a kickback. At both on campus events, students were not wearing face coverings. Considering the large amount of people gathered, this could potentially result in a rise in positive COVID cases.
The Office of University Housing and Efferson Student Union are allowing 100 students to attend the Orange Blossom Classic Student Trip to Miami that will take place Sept. 4-6. Students are being provided with free transportation and lodging. According to The New York Times, there are 3.25 million cases and there have been 44,561 cases in Miami-Dade County.
There is no guarantee that the students traveling to Miami will wear face coverings to protect themselves and their peers. But masks should be required for school sponsored trips like this as well.
For the 2020-2021 academic school year, it was mandatory for students to wear masks inside of their residence halls and during face-to-face classes due to the 2020 mask mandate in Florida, which came from state legislation.
One way to get students to protect themselves without making masks mandatory is for the university to come up with creative ways to encourage students to wear face coverings. For example, a student could receive some sort of a reward for consistently wearing their mask.
The only thing with this is: how will one keep track with the thousands of students who do and do not wear their masks when on campus?