Over the summer, Marshall updated its policy had to reflect the low case numbers across the country and the state.
The policy allowed vaccinated staff and students to not wear a mask, except when in classrooms for instruction, even when the percentage of vaccinated students and staff was much lower than they are now.
The student vaccination rate has shot up to 78% while the staff rate has remained at 87%.
It may soon be time to update the mask policy for vaccinated students and staff.
As cases were extremely high, it was only logical Marshall required masks despite vaccination status – per CDC guidelines.
However, it seems as if the peak of the delta variant has passed, as cases have begun to decrease in West Virginia and nationally.
As cases begin to subside and the vaccination rate continues to climb, the question of when to remove masks again seems to be on the horizon.
As a precursor to this, Marshall should consider testing certain classroom environments to not require masks before applying the change across campus.
It could also be enforced in a more nuanced way, by requiring masks regardless of vaccination status in large lecture-style auditoriums, while not requiring them in smaller class sizes for the many classes that are between 15 and 25 students.
Understandably, Marshall is being cautious and trying to keep in-person instruction functioning which is the obvious priority.
But the question should be asked, are students getting COVID-19 from their time on campus, or when they go out into the community where they can go to bars and clubs without masks or a requirement to be vaccinated.
Although Marshall is not a bubble, the high rate of vaccination compared to the surrounding area makes Marshall the safest place to be without a mask, not the only place students and staff should have to wear one.
The Faculty Senate’s decision to recommend a vaccine mandate, and a mask mandate makes no sense.
Even with the possibility of a breakthrough case because of the delta variant, it does not negate the extremely high level of protection the vaccine provides.
Between the number of people vaccinated and those naturally infected, it seems that Marshall would be well over any sort of threshold for herd immunity.
As we all hope that the end of masks is insight, and I hope Marshall is willing able to embrace the amount of work that has been done to acknowledge we are safe here.