THE DECISION DREW MIXED REACTION FROM STUDENTS.
By Umaymah Suhail
Wilfrid Laurier University lifted their mask mandate for the second time since 2020 on Feb. 16.
Laurier no longer requires masks on campus or in classrooms, but still encourages students to take COVID precautions in crowded settings. The university said in a release it would return to masking if needed. The university had no further comment on the decision.
Masks have been a hot topic on both campuses recently and students have mixed reactions to Laurier’s latest decision.
“I feel like it was a bit out of the blue,” said Victoria Blagdon, a first-year criminology student on the Brantford campus. “But it’s not like people were wearing them in the first place.”
Blagdon said they saw nothing wrong with lifting mask mandates on campus as long as Laurier keeps its COVID-positive numbers under control. They also said they still wear a mask in their larger classes, but not their smaller ones where social distancing is easy. Blagdon said it is up to students to do what they are comfortable with.
“It doesn’t really bug me, but I know it bugs some people to wear one,” said Blagdon.
This isn’t the first time Laurier has lifted mask mandates on campus. The university briefly removed their mandatory vaccine and mask requirement on May 31 last year. The university reinforced their mask mandate again at the beginning of the fall 2022 term.
“It really feels great to not have to wear a mask,” said Marco Mihai, a second-year business technology student on the Brantford campus. “I think freedom of choice to wear a mask is very paramount.”
Laurier was one of the last universities in the area to drop their mask mandate.
“I thought they should’ve done it a lot sooner,” said Mihai. “Like when the first schools were dropping them.”
The University of Waterloo lifted their mask mandate on Jan. 9. At McMaster University and the University of Guelph, masks haven’t been mandated since last year, but are always strongly recommended.
Mihai said he thinks it’s important to wear a mask in healthcare spaces where people are sick, but not so much in classrooms.
“That’s just proper healthcare etiquette,” said Mihai. “But then in a school setting, it’s different — you’re there to learn.”
Mihai said the mask mandate didn’t exist outside of class. He said his peers would take off their masks and talk to each other from an even closer distance than they would have when seated in class.
Mihai said seeing his professor’s facial expressions helps him learn better, but these visual cues are covered by masks during class.
Marie Snyder, a master’s student in spiritual care and psychotherapy on the Waterloo campus, said she chose Laurier over other schools because of their mask mandate.
“You’re choosing the school because it’s safer,” said Snyder. “Then halfway through the semester, suddenly it’s not.”
Snyder said she would have preferred Laurier to lift the mandate after the final exam period or at the beginning of the next term. This way, students would have time to prepare for a mask-free setting, said Snyder.
“Wearing a mask protects you,” said Snyder. “But it’s hard to protect yourself when you’re surrounded by people not wearing a mask.”
Snyder said she wears a mask in public to prevent getting and spreading the virus. She said she encourages other students to wear a mask too.
On Jan. 28, some Laurier students protested the university’s mask mandate in Waterloo’s Town Square.
Blagdon called the protest “childish.”
“If it’s helping other people public safety wise, then it’s something that you should be doing,” said Blagdon. “I find some people make it a bigger deal than it needs to be.”
According to Worldometer, there are 42,012 active COVID cases in Canada as of March 1. This number dropped since Sept. 1, 2022, when there were 99,555 active cases.