QU loosens mask mandate, extends booster deadline

Nicole McIsaac and Amanda Undari

Quinnipiac University instated an optional indoor mask mandate March 1, in addition to extending the booster record submission deadline to March 19.

All individuals are required to wear masks inside of classrooms and health care service areas, according to a Quinnipiac COVID support email sent to the community on Feb. 28. Masks may be required at university-sponsored events and other large gatherings.

Senior Medical Advisor David Hill said the university’s decision to loosen the mask mandate came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced updated masking guidance Feb. 25, based on COVID case count by county.

Connor Lawless

“Quinnipiac has a highly vaccinated population, omicron is waning,” Hill said. “We’ve done well so far with our numbers of cases on campus, our capacity to take care of students has been never overwhelmed in the first month of being back.”

Despite favoring a sense of normalcy on campus, students said they wish the university chose to fully remove or support the mandate to avoid a noncommittal response.

“I feel it is a halfhearted move by the university in an attempt to please all,” said Christopher Winters, a senior law in society major. “By refusing to commit one way or the other, it has the exact opposite effect of pleasing no one.”

Hill said the decision to continue requiring masking in classrooms because it is an environment in which students are required to be present.

“The classroom’s a required event, and students don’t have a choice about whether they show up or not in the classroom,” Hill said. “They haven’t necessarily made a choice of who they sit next to. That’s very different from the dining hall, it’s very different from other public events, it’s very different from the dormitory situation.”

The university has 29 active cases in isolation, and 25 of the cases being within the past week, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.

However, students are concerned that cases will increase given the new mask protocol.

“If no one’s wearing masks in places like the cafe or (recreation) center, then what’s the point of keeping them on in class when you’re exposed to people elsewhere?” said Michael Powell Jr., a senior accounting major.

Students who did not upload their booster records received an email regarding the updated changes on Feb. 25. Any student who does not meet the new submission date will be required to follow a five-day quarantine if exposed to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.

Non-boosted individuals are also prohibited from participating in any university-sponsored travel for the remainder of the semester and will be charged a $200 noncompliance fee to their bursar account.

Additionally, non-boosted residential students who need to quarantine must travel home, and students living off campus must remain in their housing to complete their isolation. All quarantined students will be required to complete a daily symptom check during the five days, and can end their quarantine period once they have a negative antigen test and are cleared by Student Health Services.

The $200 fee collected from noncompliant students will be donated in full to the 1929 Scholarship Fund, a student-run fund that provides aid to incoming and transfer students.

“If we are going to fine students, let’s have that money go back to the students,” Hill said. “It’s a positive response for a challenging decision.”

Hill told The Chronicle that there is no exact number of students who have completed the requirement yet, but feels that the university’s spring break from March 14-17 will allow more students to complete the booster requisite before the new deadline.

In disagreement with the university’s decision, some students have taken action to convince Quinnipiac officials to reconsider the mandate.

Halie Jansen, a senior health science studies major, runs the Instagram account @qu.students to call upon the university to reconsider its booster mandate. She said she doesn’t agree with the noncompliance fee because the majority of the Quinnipiac population is already vaccinated.

“Taking money from one student during this pandemic, just to give to another is wrong,” Jansen said. “Students who want to have a choice in this booster may still have financial troubles that QU is not considering.”

Jansen said there is a link to a student-run petition placed within the account’s bio that requests the university’s administration to abolish the mandate on campus. The Chronicle reported at the start of the open letter in January, and as of publication it has risen to 978 signatures.

Other students feel that those who do not meet the updated requirement should face consequences.

Sophomore computer information systems major Julianna Rodgers said that students who don’t upload their booster information by the extended deadline should receive a harsher punishment.

“I think they should just get kicked off of campus instead of having to pay money,” Rodgers said.

The university will continue to monitor the COVID-19 cases and adjust any policy if necessary. Any student with questions regarding the booster mandate is encouraged to contact [email protected].