Drexel students need to get used to wearing masks indoors again. Due to continuous (and quickly changing) updates as the situation on campus, there has been a confusion about indoor mask regulations. Earlier this year, the CDC stated that fully vaccinated people would not need to wear masks “indoors or outdoors in most settings,” and many took this to indicate a return to pre-COVID normalcy. Unfortunately, due to the Delta variant, things cannot go according to Drexel’s initial plan, which was to have in-person classes without masks. Drexel students will have to get used to wearing masks indoors again as they return to campus this fall.
On June 23, Drexel had announced that vaccinated Dragons were not required to wear masks indoors. At that moment, COVID rates were under 1 percent in the Drexel community, and Philadelphia’s cases were at the lowest numbers since the beginning of the pandemic. People had to submit their vaccine proof by July 1 for semester students and Aug. 1 for quarter students.
After all these measures, the Drexel community thought they were moving in the right direction. More and more people started feeling comfortable not wearing masks indoors and the overall atmosphere started to feel more positive. Then, the Delta variant hit, becoming a nationwide concern — especially in big populated cities like Philadelphia.
On July 22, the City of Philadelphia released a statement strongly recommending residents wear masks indoors, even those vaccinated. The following Tuesday, July 27, Drexel followed suit and “encouraged” vaccinated students to wear masks indoors despite their previous allowance. Unvaccinated students have always been required to wear masks on campus.
Shortly after, reported cases in Philadelphia began to rise. According to USAFacts coronavirus report, there were 36 cases reported in Philadelphia on Jul. 9; by Aug. 10, there were 276 reported cases. .
On Aug. 3, the university announced a mask mandate for every Drexel building. Some students, especially those vaccinated, may have felt confusion or frustration at the rapid change in guidelines — or simply did not take them seriously.
Many people continued to go maskless in Drexel buildings without knowing about the new requirement. Knowing that the number of cases is rising all throughout the United States and that the Delta variant, a variant that is 50 percent more contagious than the original strain of COVID, is spreading very fast, masks (along with other measures, like social distancing and limiting crowds indoors) help keep the Drexel community as safe and COVID-free as possible.
In order to have in-person classes without being worried about our health, we need to reincorporate masks into our routine. They are proven to be one of the few measures to contain this virus besides high rates of vaccination. The CDC recently announced that breakthrough cases are possible among vaccinated people, but unvaccinated people are at the greatest risk of catching COVID and having severe symptoms.
Until more information about the Delta variant becomes clear, masks are our best friend in limiting the spread of this virus. With in-person classes starting in a few weeks, keeping up with shifting guidelines will help keep everyone safe and protect the Drexel community from another year of online school.