In an email sent Friday morning, the COVID Response Committee notified students and staff that on March 5, the mask mandates in all buildings, including academic, will be lifted. This means that, depending on the requirements of the professor, students will no longer be required to wear a mask – instead, students and staff are given the option to wear masks, should they feel the need. The email states that lifting the mandate at this time “gives employees time to prepare signage and adjust internal protocols during the upcoming week.” It should also be noted that the mandate lifting coincides with Clemson University’s own lifting of the academic mask mandate, which took place one week ago. Furman has a history of following Clemson’s mandates, a trend that will surely continue as the pandemic declines.
The announcement received mixed emotions. Many students shared that they are incredibly happy for the changes, and are excited for school to return to some semblance of normal before they graduate. However, there are some who are worried about the lift of the requirement, especially because of its timing. March 5 is the beginning of spring break, meaning many students and faculty will be leaving campus grounds and creating the opportunity for many to bring back the virus depending on their travels. This could potentially cause a spike in COVID-19 cases across campus as soon as students and faculty arrive back on campus. A spike in cases would be a massive step back from the COVID-free environment everyone has worked hard to maintain.
With such a sudden change coming, students and staff strive to maintain the herd immunity established over the past couple semesters. Furman advised students to continue wearing masks during spring break, and two weeks after on campus to ensure that there is no spreading of the virus. Furman is offering free COVID testing for students before break to ensure community safety, but announced the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) would be closing its on-campus testing site by March 14 at latest.