As of July 27, Cornell University eased its masking requirements. In a statement made by the University on its COVID-19 webpage, it was announced that masks will be strongly encouraged, although not required, in classrooms for the 2022-2023 academic year.
“It is well established that wearing a mask while indoors reduces the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19,” the statement said. “Individuals who are concerned about the risk of infection are encouraged to continue to wear a mask, and we ask that all members of our community support and respect one another’s masking choices.”
Moreover, the University announced that it will be discontinuing its PCR testing sites, with antigen testing still available to those of the Cornell community who meet clinical testing criteria. Those who have tested positive for the virus are no longer required to isolate themselves, although they must remain masked in public, according to CDC recommendations. Students must also wear masks upon the request of their professors or other students.
Many students are happy that the mask mandate has been lifted, as it represents a major milestone in the University’s reopening after the pandemic. However, in many classrooms across campus, some students and professors are still choosing to mask up.
“I feel relieved that the masking requirements were lifted and that a return to normalcy was much needed,” Zach Tyson ’25 said.
Dylan Keusch ’24 agrees, adding that he believes Cornell’s current guidelines are appropriate given the status of the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, I believe we’re at a point where we need to learn to live with the virus, and while certainly a useful protection for those infected with the virus or those who are immunocompromised, I feel as though we must move past a requirement for the general population,” he said.
Prof. Michael Toglia, psychology, is a part of the Cornell community who continues to mask up, despite the end of the mandate.
Toglia said that it is important for him to continue wearing masks because the pandemic is not technically over and the United States has not yet reached herd immunity.
“While students, faculty and staff have been vaccinated and boosted, breakout cases continue to occur and thus pose some level of threat to the Cornell campus and the Ithaca community as well,” Toglia said.
But for some students, the end of the mask mandate reminds them of the simple pleasures that many have not enjoyed since early 2020.
“Personally, I’m really happy the masking requirement has been lifted,” Kasey Harvey ’24 said. “It’s so nice to see everyone’s faces in a classroom setting again, and it makes it feel like everything is back to normal.”
Kaity Molito ’23 added that she finally feels like Cornell students are having a more traditional college experience. She added that the reduced presence of masks allows for interpersonal connections and friendships to be made more naturally.
“It’s nice to go to class in person and actually see the faces of the people around you,” she said. “For me personally, it’s been easier not only to connect with other students in class but to also then recognize them and organically connect outside of class, like around campus or Collegetown.”
As we approach the fourth week of classes, most students feel that they have adjusted to this return to normalcy, especially since many students are from areas of the country and of the world where masking requirements have been lifted for months.
Harvey is from San Diego. She said that despite California’s strictness compared to other states in terms of COVID-19 regulations, its regulations were lifted for the duration of the summer. Upon her return to campus, it felt completely normal to walk around without a mask.
Despite the large number of Cornellians who do not plan on continuing to wear a mask this school year, many, like Tyson and Molito, agreed that they would wear a mask in class to be courteous to others if they were asked to.
“I’d wear a mask if a professor or classmate near me expressed a concern for their own health,” Molito said. “Otherwise I’m pretty content with not having to wear one anymore.”