Bay Area colleges divided about unmasking orders
San Jose State, San Francisco State and others are keeping face coverings — for now
Elementary, middle and high school kids soon will be pulling off their masks, but young adults and 20-somethings will have to keep them on at some local universities and colleges.
San Jose State and San Francisco State are among several Bay Area colleges maintaining tougher face-covering rules than the state and local counties. Those schools will require students to keep their masks on at least for the rest of the spring.
State and local public health officials across the region and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention all have issued guidance they no longer will require masks to protect against COVID-19 in public settings. And California will end its statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools at the stroke of midnight Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom's office announced Feb. 28. Many local school districts with younger kids plan to do likewise, with San Francisco Unified being the latest to agree to drop the mask mandate in coming weeks.
Christopher Reid, a freshman at San Jose State who lives on campus, isn't happy that he and other students still must wear masks despite Santa Clara County discontinuing its indoor mask requirement.
In a statement asking students for patience, SJSU interim President Steve Perez said though keeping the mask requirement in place for now “may come as a short-term disappointment” to some, “it will help keep our immunocompromised colleagues and friends safer and enable us to move forward as a united community.”
Reid griped that the university hasn't offered a pathway to move away from the mandate, or suggested a date when masks can come off .
“Considering how low the case numbers are, it should be a choice by students,” Reid said.
Other colleges have plans to get rid of the mask mandates for students on campus, mostly for those who are vaccinated. In an acknowledgement that the pandemic is waning, UC Berkeley dropped its mask mandate March 7, but Guy Nicolette, assistant vice chancellor for University Health Services, noted everyone won't be happy about it.
Rather than continuing to try to prevent all infections, the university now is focusing on preventing severe illness and death and protecting those who are most vulnerable, he wrote in a statement to the community.
“Next week will mark two years since we shifted classes online at the start of the pandemic and two years of restrictions on our lives,” wrote Nicolette. “We owe it to ourselves to embrace the improving conditions and adjust accordingly, assessing our own risk and risk tolerance as we move forward.”
An informal survey of local universities and colleges found that those keeping mask requirements said they're in no rush to get rid of it, and that they have the right, as per the state and counties, to continue to mandate masking until they decide otherwise.
Santa Clara County
Santa Clara University officials said they will continue to require vaccinated students wear masks indoors through March 18. But the university will continue to require all students to wear masks in classrooms and the Cowell Health Center “because of their unique environments.”
After March 18, unvaccinated people on campus will have to mask in all indoors places. Officials still strongly recommended everyone wear them indoors
“Until our community reaches a high level of booster vaccination, we will continue to require masks to minimize transmission on campus,” said Elliot Zanger, a spokesman for the university.
Foothill and De Anza colleges will require masks until March 25, the end of the spring semester. Officials there recommend indoor masking when the spring quarter starts April 4, Judy Minor, Foothill-De Anza Community College District chancellor, wrote to the campus community this week.
Cal State East Bay dropped its mask requirements for vaccinated students on March 1. The university still requires masks be worn in public settings, such as shuttle buses
and health care, said Lori Bachand, an associate vice president at the university. Students ending quarantine will be required to mask up until the 10th day following a positive test, regardless of vaccination status.
Ohlone Community College will keep its mask-on policy until the end of the spring semester after consulting with a campus safety team of employee groups and other campus stakeholders.
“Our mask mandate has been consistent, and our employees and students are used to wearing a mask indoors; they feel safe,” said Jen Marquez, a spokeswoman for the college. “Changing midsemester is really not fair to these people.”
Contra Costa County
Contra Costa Community College District schools, including Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College and Los Medanos College, will continue to mandate indoor masking through the rest of the spring semester, said Tim Leong, public information officer for the Contra Costa Community College District.
San Francisco County
San Francisco State also will keep its indoor mask requirement, with no clear end date in sight.
“Our cautious approach has made ours one of the safest campuses in the nation over the past two years. We are hopeful that we will be able to revisit our masking requirement in the future,” said Kent Bravo, a spokesman for the university.
UC San Francisco will require masks indoors through the end of the month, at which time the university will revisit its mask mandate, said spokeswoman Kellie Sampson.