The number of COVID-19 cases on campus has been consistent since the masks were made optional in most indoor facilities, including eateries and residences, with effect from 7 March. There were 35 positive COVID-19 cases among students and faculty within the past 10 days, according to Emory University’s COVID-19 dashboard March 18 The same number of cases was reported on March 3rd.
However, COVID-19 Response and Recovery CEO Amir St. Clair said it is too early to determine how the mask policy will affect case numbers, especially after it applies to classrooms, laboratories and other classrooms on March 21.
“We have to be very careful in determining what is a connection and what is a causal connection,” said St. Clair.
Previous COVID-19 trends have shown low transmission in classrooms, according to St. Clair. He said most students caught and spread the virus off campus.
“Before the academic year started, we shared with the campus community that based on these data and the case studies and contact tracing, there were no documented cases of transfer in the classroom,” said St. Clair.
To prepare for the fact that masks can be optional in the classrooms, Emory is increasing communication to update the community on expectations for mask-optional policies, St. Clair added. The university revises the website and content on social media, posts videos and updates signage around campus.
“What we found is that there has been minimal [confusion] and where there is, much of it can be solved at the local level, ”said St. Clair. “We have authorized various student leaders and faculty and staff leaders to help address these issues.”
The university has also recently added a section for updated vaccination data on COVID-19 dashboard, which counts the students and faculty who have both vaccinations and the booster if they are eligible. About 90.2% of the students and 89.9% of the faculty are updated on March 18th.
In line with the new policy, St. Clair that it is crucial to respect the decisions of others when it comes to masking. Professors will not be able to require students to wear masks in their classes, whether it is a large lecture or a small discussion.
“It’s really important that we approach this change with an understanding that masks are optional, supporting compassion and empathy for those who want to wear masks and those who do not want to wear masks,” said St. Clair.
This month marks two years since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and St. Clair said that by making masks optional in the classrooms on Monday, the university will achieve a long-term goal.
“The community has done a remarkable job of getting us to this point through their strong participation and commitment, and we want people to have confidence in the safe and healthy environment that we as a community have created here at Emory,” says St. said Clair. “We’re going to move through this period together.”