Just before the fall semester started, Southern Miss announced that it would reinstate its indoor mask mandate from last year, much to the delight of some students.
Southern Miss followed the lead of the Mississippi State Department of Health (MDSH) in reinstating the policy. The MDSH released the official MSDH COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for College and University Settings, which updated the school’s COVID-19 protocols on Aug. 6. These guidelines aligned with other public areas, such as restaurants and department stores.
According to the reinstated mandate, face coverings will be worn indoors by students, faculty, staff and visitors, regardless of a person’s vaccination status. If a person is exposed to COVID-19, the person should be tested within three to five days after the exposure. If the person is not fully vaccinated, the person should quarantine for at least 10 days. Fully vaccinated people should get tested, but they do not have to quarantine.
The newer mask mandate, along with these other precautions, has caused controversy around the country, with many mixed on the precaution. Although many Americans do not agree with the decision, many college students felt, and still feel, that the mask mandate is necessary. This is the case for Southern Miss students, too, as many appreciated the changes made for their safety.
For many students, they felt safer in an environment that requires masks or pushes for vaccinations than one that did not. They understand that this semester will look different from the past semesters, and are willing to adapt accordingly. In fact, students seemed excited and relieved to hear the new protocols set in place for the new semester.
Sophomore Erin Collins believed the environment on campus will be safer with the mask mandate.
“USM is taking precautions to keep everybody safe,” said Collins. “I’m really happy about it.”
Collins also emphasized the importance of masks for the upcoming year, especially now that the COVID-19 Delta variant is making the rounds.
“If you look at the cases, you’ll see that cases are skyrocketing as if they did in January,” Collins said. “Cases are even higher than at the first surge, so I think they [masks] are very necessary.”
Transfer student Gustavo Ramirez-Cordoba also felt enthusiastic about the reinstated mask mandate.
“I thought it was a good thing because it made me more optimistic about being able to participate in events this year,” said Ramirez-Cordoba.
One of the major complaints about the reinstated mandate is that it will remove some of the wonder of the “college experience”. However, Ramirez-Cordoba, as a rising junior, feels that his college experience is not in trouble because people have to wear masks again.
“I don’t think there would be much of a difference,” Ramirez-Cordoba said. “It’s a necessity to me, considering there is this new Delta Variant, and overall, it’s just safe.”
In addition to the mask mandate, campus events should be scheduled in large or outdoor areas, and Southern Miss will reevaluate each of the protocols if instructed to by the MDSH Public Health Guidance for College and University Settings.