Southern Miss updated its COVID-19 protocols to reduce the requirement of face coverings in several spaces around each of the campuses on March 2.
A university-wide email announced that face coverings will not be required in public spaces, which includes residence halls, libraries, dining facilities, the Student Union, Campus Recreation facilities, retail spaces, offices, conference rooms or extracurricular activities held in indoor on-campus spaces.
The update coincides with the University COVID-19 safety protocol revisions from Centers Disease Control and Prevention.
Face coverings will be required in instructional and health settings, regardless of vaccination status, which means Southern Miss students and faculty will only wear masks in their classrooms and health care buildings like the Moffitt Health Center.
The announcement shocked many Southern Miss students.
Sophomore Amaris Hodge understood the protocol’s change, but Hodge felt uneasy about the safety of the mask lift.
“I can just say that I understand a lot of people’s frustrations with the mask, but we are still in a pandemic and should still be wearing our masks in public places where there are a lot of people,” Hodge said. “I will definitely still be wearing my mask but I think the lift will finally put an end to the complaining.”
Like Hodge, students choose to wear face coverings whenever they decide, but some students will leave their masks in the past.
With the mask lift, Southern Miss follows the trend of other universities, like the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University.
Both announced the changes to the COVID-19 protocols at the beginning of last month. Like Mississippi’s universities, schools across the nation are hopping on the trend as well.
The number of COVID-19 cases decrease weekly in Forrest County and Mississippi, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.
The decrease may have inspired the CDC to move forward with the mask lift, and the trend of other universities could have influenced Southern Miss.
Senior Kenzavius Williams thinks the decrease was not enough to end the mask mandate.
“I feel it was very irresponsible,” Williams said. “Simply because Covid still is a thing, and people are scared to get it. So by taking away that mandate, you deter a lot more of those people from coming to class and that could affect the way they’re learning and their grades.”
Southern Miss recommends that its students, faculty and staff get the COVID-19 vaccination and the booster.
If anyone with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 walks the campuses, they should still wear a face covering.
Students, faculty and staff should follow the current CDC guidelines for isolation, quarantine and testing, but the guidelines and protocols will be reevaluated and continue to change over time.
For more information about the importance of a face covering, visit the mask tab on the CDC’s website. Search for vaccination information at the USM COVID-19 Vaccination Updates tab on the Student Health Services at Moffitt Health Center or Gulf Park Health Center website.
For even more information, visit the Moffitt Health Center, email email@example.com or call 601-266-5390.