Reed has maintained a mask mandate for most of the pandemic, only faltering for one month last summer. With the world moving on and the state of Oregon removing its mandate, the question of when Reed will amend its mask policy creeps into the minds of the campus community.
Madison Riethman, Reed’s COVID-19 Response Coordinator, explained why Reed did not immediately follow Oregon’s steps to revoke the mask mandate, “We wanted more time to see how our community felt, we’ve leaned really hard into masking as a community. We wanted more time to see how things played out. Rather than flip-flopping back and forth, and rather than making all of those changes in the middle of the semester, we said ‘Let’s just see how this goes, and see if hospitalizations and cases are low.’”
Number of COVID-19 cases, both at the state level and on-campus, plays a great role in determining what recommendations the COVID Risk Assessment Group (CRAG) makes to the administration regarding the masking policy. The unpredictability of COVID statistics makes determining what Reed will look like next semester difficult, as no one can predict the number of cases tomorrow, much less months from now. Riethman speculated, “I expect we will continue to reevaluate the mask mandate every week throughout this semester. If we were to lift it, I would expect it to be over summer, the caveat being that covid surges don’t happen. If we see surges here, we might reevaluate that. We’re already looking at what next semester will look like.”
While the idea of wearing a face mask everywhere was once jarring, Reed students seem to have embraced it for the sake of everyone’s safety and health. According to Riethman, “We think our community really values masks, we’ve kind of gotten used to wearing them.”
Senator Ana Quintana Bernal ‘23, the COVID-19 Liaison, shed light on the different reasons for Reed’s continuous upholding of the mandate, “CRAG agrees they should keep it because they saw how it went in the summer, when Oregon got rid of the mask mandate and immediately had to put it back because cases were spiking. They just want to be cautious.” Bernal emphasized that another deciding factor for the mask mandate is student sentiment, “CRAG wants to see if the community values it. It’s a tipping point if they’re in between, from what we understand.” As to what current student sentiment actually is, Bernal stated “from chatting with students, students really want to keep it, especially in the classroom because that’s a lot of people who you don’t know about their covid safety practices. Students really want to keep it, at least until the end of the year.”
Emma Marek ‘24, a student who had COVID at the beginning of spring ‘22, shared her thoughts on the mask mandate’s continued presence on campus, “I’ve had it now, but I think to make everyone else feel comfortable, I think it’s really important to keep it in classrooms. For me, I know everyone I’m in contact with and I know what they do and I feel a lot safer in my bubble, whereas in classes I don’t know where any of these people have been.”
The COVID Liaisons are intending to send out a letter for students to sign if they are for the mask mandate, and though these plans have been temporarily stalled due to the ongoing protests addressing racial injustice at Reed, students are encouraged to speak to the COVID Liaisons during their Office Hours.
Wani Pandey Office Hours: Tuesday/Thursday 10:15-11:15 am in the Treasury Office or on zoom (link can be found in SB Info emails)
Ana Quintana Bernal Office Hours: Thursday 2:30-3:30 on zoom (link can be found in SB Info emails)