In the age of a modern pandemic, who gets to survive in America is even more limited than before: the checklist for survival has expanded while the long-term effects of COVID-19 remain the same. With the new mask advisory for Tompkins County being lifted, Ithaca College will not require all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings in indoor locations and has left it up to the discretion of our professors to administer their face covering policy per classroom.
This is a messy approach to the overall campus safety, places an unfair burden upon all professors and ignores the immunocompromised individuals in our community: the number of people who are elderly, below 5 years old or who can’t get vaccinated because of their immune systems is still significant. While not wearing a mask indoors may feel like a breath of fresh air, the air is not COVID-free yet.
The Ithaca College administration has failed by not offering support for those who still want to wear masks or have to wear one. This announcement was a rushed effort that ignores the many concerns that come with an on-going, deadly virus. Glossing over important reminders about public health is dangerous for everyone in the community. The college needs to be proactive, clear and responsive when addressing the protocols for returning from spring break. Dropping this new mask mandate in haste does not allow faculty the time to plan, inform their students of their individual policy methodically, and adds undo stress to another atypical COVID semester.
The war of pestilence is resilient and unforgiving. As history shows, humans are creators of our own Frankensteins, we are overzealous with our goals of productivity so we forget to proceed with caution. We now find ourselves existing in the middle of a pandemic and fumbling with new mask mandates and poorly thought out policies. The Ithaca College community must remain smart and remember that respecting and protecting our peers, professors, staff, the community and ourselves is a full-time job. The good news is we have control over our actions. We must continue wearing a mask and making it a mandatory task in our checklist of survival.