Following an update to CDC guidelines in May, SIUE released an updated mask policy regarding when students should wear masks depending on their vaccination status.
SIU System President Dan Mahony said these changes were made to follow the updated guidelines as much as possible, but that it isn’t the guaranteed plan for the Fall 2021 semester.
“The change will adjust, like it did this time, to whatever changes come. It’s looking more like the fall will be far more open than we’ve been in a while,” Mahony said.
Mahony said the updated policy is the same across all other SIU campuses and is similar to other state institutions as well.
“We view the policy not just within the system, but across the state. Higher education institutions are pretty much in the same place — we’re all following the same CDC guidance,” Mahony said.
Miriam Roccia, the associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said the guidelines bring about some change in places where social distancing is possible inside as well as outside.
“We still encourage folks to wear a mask if they feel comfortable doing so, but if an individual is fully vaccinated in private or semiprivate spaces, masks are optional for those who are fully vaccinated,” Roccia said.
Roccia said she knows many other places have more drastically changed their mask policies, but SIUE will continue their policies until they have more clear information from state officials.
“[The governor of Illinois] has indicated that there may be some positive trends in the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, and so we may see some revisions to what we call the Restore Illinois plan here in this month or pretty soon — we don't know what those will be and so we're waiting on any guidance that comes out of that,” Roccia said.
First year Pharmacy student Jason Cole of Mulkeytown, Illinois, said he was somewhat shocked when he saw the email from SIUE after hearing about the CDC guidelines.
“A lot of places are now saying that if you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t have to wear masks inside or on the premises,” Cole said. “Unless you’re outside, you have to wear a mask for fully vaccinated individuals, other than a conference or a private room.”
Cole said while this doesn’t affect him very much personally, he understands why this would bother some people.
“It wasn’t what I was expecting — some people are tired of wearing masks in public, so they’re like, ‘Alright I’ll just get the vaccine, then I won’t have to wear a mask.’ And for the school to [be stricter than the CDC guidelines] I thought it was a little odd,” Cole said.
Cole said that regardless of the CDC guidelines, he still wears a mask almost everywhere he goes.
“Most people do it. It makes other people feel better,” Cole said. “It’s not going to really change much of what I was going to do personally.”
Cole said the new guidelines make him more hopeful of getting back to in-person classes, regardless of masks.
Robert Kelly, a part-time instructor in the Mass Communications Department, said the new CDC guidelines make him optimistic that other classes will go back to being in person.
“I welcomed [the updated CDC guidelines] because I never stopped teaching,” Kelly said. “I think that a lot of my students were [happy about the change] too. I got the sense that a lot of them were happy to have an actual classroom experience.”
Kelly said he hadn’t moved to online classes throughout the pandemic, but that he knows a lot of his students missed that experience.
“So much of [my students’] classes had been on Zoom. I think they just felt more of the college experience with me having a few classes where we actually would go to class — and I got such comments from some students,” Kelly said.
For more information about CDC safety guidelines, visit their website.