Northwestern students discuss the possibility of mask mandate’s end


Daily file illustration by Angeli Mittal

Northwestern students discuss whether ending the mask mandate is the right decision among rising cases on campus.

Nicole Markus, Copy Editor

Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently announced a possible end to the statewide mask mandate on Feb. 28, leaving the door open for Northwestern to lift its mandate as well.

The Illinois Department of Public Health cited the lowest hospitalization rate of any point in the pandemic in a Feb. 9 news release as a reason to lift the mandate. However, the release noted masks would still be required in places mandated by the federal government, such as public transit.

Weinberg freshman Kineyshi Fils-Esperant said despite the state’s floated plans, masking is necessary to protect the community. She added masks might be the protective barrier between a student and a positive COVID-19 test.

“You think you’re invincible, you think you can’t get COVID-19, and then boom, you do,” she said. “Wearing a mask could resolve that issue.”

After the University recorded a record-high number of COVID-19 cases at the beginning of Winter Quarter, cases steadily declined. However, NU’s positivity rate increased from 2.78% to 4.35% this week, marking the second week of increased cases and positivity rates in a row. 

“Especially now that we’re seeing larger numbers of COVID-19 cases, I don’t think now is the time to lift this mandate,” Fils-Esperant said. 

Shortly before Pritzker’s announcement and the rise in cases, Northwestern Medicine experts said the removal of mask mandates is premature and not rooted in science. 

Feinberg Prof. Mercedes Carnethon, the school’s vice chair of preventative medicine, said the cold weather is another reason to keep the mandate in place. With more time spent indoors, Carnethon said a better time to end the mandate might come in later in the spring or summer. 

The discussion surrounding the mandate comes as other universities, like the University of Illinois, announce the end or partial lifting of their requirements. 

McCormick freshman Lachlan Stevens supports lifting the mask mandate. He said the requirement is ineffective in preventing the spread, given that students are going out unmasked in non-classroom settings. 

“Everyone, in theory, is vaccinated and boosted, and people are still getting COVID-19 because we’re all still going out unmasked,” he said.

Weinberg freshman Madeleine Williams shared the sentiment that the mandate does little to prevent cases on campus.

Students are not abiding by the mandate in places where they are in the closest contact with each other, Williams added, like in residence halls.

“Most people I know who’ve had COVID-19 get it from being in very large groups of people in nightlife, not from class when you’re stationary and not moving,” she said. “At this point, I feel like we’re kind of picking and choosing when we feel like wearing it.”

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