Northeast dropped the mask mandate on Oct. 25

Lilly Ryken

The mask mandate on campus was originally dropped in the Spring of 2021. The college brought back the mask mandate on the first day of the Fall semester as positive covid cases started rising. The mask mandate was dropped on the 25th of October.

“There was a lot of conversations, and the main reason we dropped the mandate is that we could not enforce it,” Amanda Nipp, Vice President of Student Services said. “We couldn’t enforce it equally throughout the whole campus.”

Some areas of the school were better about making sure everyone was wearing their masks than others. For example, the residence halls (Path, Burk, and Simone) have more staff, where they can constantly be enforcing the mandate, while in the Union, there is not as many members that can walk around and monitor if people are wearing masks or not. Some buildings were stricter about enforcement because they have the staff needed to do so.

“It came down to a lot of lack of compliance. We were the only entity within the community that was mask mandated.” Brain Paulsen, director of Safety and Emergency Preparedness said. “We felt that exposures were happening 16 hours a day, when the students and staff were off campus since nowhere else was masking.”

Although there was a mask mandate on Northeast Community College’s campus, nowhere else in Norfolk has a mask mandate. So, although they were protected from getting exposed to Covid 19 on campus, when students and staff were off campus, masks aren’t mandated at grocery stores and other public places. Therefore, according to Northeast Administration, those people who aren’t masking in other areas could be exposed.

“Last week our number of student positive covid cases hadn’t increased since the mask mandate was dropped, it actually was a little bit lower than some of the previous weeks,” Nipp said. “But we’ve been seeing that the numbers have been tapering off a little bit on campus, kind of a reflection of the religion and the state as well. So far so good.”

Now that there is no mask mandate on campus, the school still highly recommends wearing one. NECC supplies masks for both students and staff. After the mandate was dropped, staffed placed 15 boxes, which is 750 masks spread out on campus.

“We are continuing to monitor any student expose or positive cases, faculty members as well. We were tracking by school departments,” Paulsen said. “We were watching it by programs. And we feel that we need to continue doing so because we haven’t required any notification on vaccines.”

The school does not require students to notify anyone when or if they do get the vaccine unless they voluntarily supply that information.

“I would guess in the ballpark that 65% of our faculty is vaccinated but I have no idea what the student’s percentage is.” Paulsen said.

Teachers have the option to require masks in their classrooms even with the mask mandate drop. There are some labs that people are spread out, or in the union someone could be sitting far away from another person. There is room to socially distance.

“Wearing masks is one of our best defenses against the spread of Covid 19. Outside of the vaccine, wearing masks and socially distancing is some of the top ways to reduce the spread,” Nipp said. “Our classroom sizes do not allow us to social distance that is why we are strongly recommending masks and we’re allowing faculty and staff to require it in individual offices or classrooms and meeting spaces.”

The recovery teams goal is to protect the students overall health, with and without a mask.

“One of the messages that we didn’t do a good job of communicating to the students is that the masks weren’t about protecting yourself, its about everyone around you,” Paulsen said, “I hate to say it this way but if a student has Covid, they are already in the fire, but we don’t want anyone else to go in there with you.”

The mask mandate was meant to protect all students. If a person does have Covid 19, there is nothing you can do to take that away from them, you must let Covid do its course. But one thing a person with Covid 19 can do is stay home and away from others to prevent them from getting sick, according to Northeast Administration.

“I know that masks and vaccines have become a personal choice and then there’s politics that have weighed in and I think it’s really important for students to know that we have a recovery team of faculty staff, and administration that had significant debates and conversations and we heard from different people with different views,” Nipp said. “The safety of our students is always the number one focus of ours and I hope in the end the students know that that was our mission all along. We’ve tried to hear all sides and do what was best for our students.”

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