This morning, the College released its plan to gradually shift to a mask-optional campus. Starting March 28, masks will not be required in exercise facilities. On April 21, wearing masks will be optional for all of campus, including in libraries, residence halls, and classes.
According to Chief of Staff David Hertz, the College’s COVID-19 team took a measured and cautious approach in making the decision to lift the mask requirement. On March 7, Oberlin re-opened indoor dining; Hertz says starting with dining halls allowed the College to assess how loosening guidelines would affect campus.
“That way, we were able to determine, in a very prudent fashion, whether we were going to trigger COVID spread on campus,” Hertz said. “And the data came back, and showed that we were not going to have a COVID spread with that amount of relaxation of our protocols.”
This shift will mark the first time that campus has been mask-optional since the summer semester. The College has taken into account the level of spread in Lorain County and across the nation in its decision-making.
“We determined that the best course of action as we’re heading into spring break was to take that measured step forward because we know that most of our campus will leave for spring break,” Hertz said. “We also know that COVID is going down in most parts of the country. So when we come back, we thought, ‘Okay, let’s wait for the incubation period to expire after spring break, and then if we’re still at low levels of COVID, we can take the final step and open up the entire campus to a mask-optional protocol.’”
In the 11 days prior to opening indoor dining, from Feb. 24 to March 6, the College administered 499 tests and reported 18 positive cases from College testing from both rapid and PCR — a 3.6 percent positivity rate. During this time, there were also six self-reported cases. In the two weeks after indoor dining reopened, from March 7 to March 21, the College has administered 845 tests administered and reported 12 positive cases — a 1.4 percent positivity rate. There were also six self-reported cases in this period.
The College is also tightening enforcement for students who have not uploaded proof of their booster vaccination. All students who have not submitted their updated vaccination card to the Student Health Portal, or acquired an exemption were emailed yesterday and informed that, if they do not comply, their Oberlin ID card will be deactivated and they will be required to participate in an ObieSafe non-compliance process.
While masks will be optional across campus, individuals, faculty members, and student organizations can ask people to wear masks. However, mask-wearing will no longer be enforced by the College.
“We ask that you continue to keep your mask handy,” this morning’s ObieSafe email read. “Please appreciate that this change could be jarring for some who may feel the need to continue to wear a mask. Obies are expected to show support and acceptance of those who choose to wear a mask and respect requests to put on a mask when near others.”