Will we still be wearing masks in fall?

Florida A&M University. Photo courtesy of @famu_1887.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a roundtable panel discussion Thursday concerning revoking the lockdowns and mask-wearing mandates some Florida communities have imposed.

Exactly what does that mean for college students who will potentially be returning to campus next semester? Imagine sitting in a room full of unmasked students, and an individual seated nearby begins coughing mid-lecture. Neither of you have on masks. Consequently, the entire classroom could potentially become infected with what seems to be the never-ending COVID-19.

Although it has not been confirmed, FAMUs administration has said it wants to return to in-person classes, but it is not clear what that means in terms of masks and social distancing. Students are concerned that if DeSantis does follow through with this plan, more students could be more susceptible to catching the virus.

Studies have shown that face masks are an effective method for containing the spread of the virus, along with social distancing. According to the Herald Tribune, DeSantis recently signed his executive order canceling any fines issued by local governments against individuals and businesses related to COVID-19 restrictions. He is also confident in opening schools completely regardless of CDC guidelines.

“Florida’s led the way in providing all parents the right to send their kids to school for in-person instruction,” DeSantis said.

FAMU follows CDC guidelines and recommendations regarding prevention practices, so the institution will always do what is necessary to protect students. Izzy Chipman, a senior business student, believes that the mask mandate has given students a sense of security, especially those who attend class on campus.

“Without a mask, I would be worried about my health,” Chipman said. “I believe FAMU should incorporate a mask mandate to ensure the safety of students coming from all across the country,” Chipman added.

Reportedly, the FAMU COVID-19 update reflected that in the last seven days, 792 students were tested, and only one student has tested positive. Masks are credited for the decline in positive student and employee cases from Aug. 1 to now.

According to Kelley Miller, a nurse practitioner at Bond Community Health Center, FAMU has to be very strategic with reopening the school for the upcoming semester. If an adequate number of students continue to wear a mask and get the vaccine, there should not be an increase in COVID-19 cases, but if there are not, then results might reflect otherwise.  

“I believe mask-wearing should be mandated until we see our vaccine numbers indicating herd immunity or at least a significant improvement in the positive cases and hospitalizations,” Miller said. “Considering the projected vaccine administration timeline to the community and all takers, it may not allow enough time for adequate immunity to prevent students from getting the virus.”

Although students do hope to return to campus in the fall, there is still great concern from the community that people should continue to take the necessary precautions to follow the CDC guidelines, even if that means continuing to wear masks.