US colleges reinstate mask requirements, but expert says 'the time for mask mandates is gone'

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Several colleges and universities across the nation are reinstating mask mandates amid a “significant increase” in COVID-19 cases on campus, but one expert thinks the mandates are unnecessary.

Georgetown University, Rice University, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University and American University have all reinstated mask mandates across campus.

An announcement to the campus community on April 6 by Georgetown University states a “significant increase” in COVID-19 cases is forcing the university to reinstate the indoor mask requirement.

“We are taking these steps in response to a significant increase in COVID-19 cases on the Main Campus and Medical Center campuses this week, particularly among undergraduate students,” the announcement states. “This increase is partly due to the impact of the BA.2 omicron subvariant. BA.2 is now the dominant strain in the United States, including in DC and on our campuses. While recent studies show that BA.2 does not cause more severe illness than the initial omicron variant, they also show that BA.2 is even more transmissible.”


Healy Hall with the statue of Georgetown University founder John Carroll in front.

Healy Hall with the statue of Georgetown University founder John Carroll in front.

According to a university dashboard, 98% of Georgetown University students and faculty are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Similarly, Columbia University announced on April 10 that its mask mandate for classrooms is being reinstated, adding that “non-cloth masks” are mandatory.

The announcement states that the decision is being made “based on the current situation and in an abundance of caution.”

“We remain in low-risk or green status based on Columbia’s COVID-19 monitoring plan and so does New York City based on its designated risk levels. Over the past few weeks there has been an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases in New York City and not surprisingly in the percent positivity in our own surveillance testing program,” the announcement states.

An April American University announcement states that masks are being required “in all campus buildings,” except private offices, residence hall rooms, or when actively eating and drinking.


Dodge Miller Theatre and Lewisohn Hall, Columbia University, New York City

Dodge Miller Theatre and Lewisohn Hall, Columbia University, New York City
(Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Dr. Marc Siegel, Fox News medical analyst and professor of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center, told Fox News Digital that “the time for mask mandates is gone.”

“So as an overall philosophy, I’m against mask mandates right now,” Siegel said. “The time for mask mandates is gone.”

Siegel said in limited circumstances, such as a substantial COVID-19 outbreak on campus, mandatory masking might be acceptable, but added that many colleges have a very high rate of vaccination.


Rice University's campus in Houston, Texas

Rice University’s campus in Houston, Texas
(Google maps)

He said college students’ age group also plays a major factor.

“The fact that that age group is not at much risk for severe disease, that makes me want to have almost no mandates. Mandates should be reserved for high volume situation for risky disease that we’re moving away from that,” Siegel said.


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