San Francisco has eased COVID-19 restrictions over the course of the past few months and USF has followed suit, recently announcing new guidelines for COVID-19 safety on campus. As of Oct. 19, masks are optional for all students, faculty, and staff, and residential policies preventing overnight guests have been revoked.
The updated policies came from an Oct. 14 announcement from President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J and Provost Chinyere Oparah. According to the report, the changes are “in line with newly updated CDC and SFDPH guidance.”
In February, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) lifted the mask mandate for the majority of public indoor spaces and was extended to public transportation in April. In response to these changes, several universities throughout the Bay Area began to loosen their restrictions. UC Berkeley ended their mask mandate in June and in September San Francisco State University stopped requiring masks on campus.
While masks have been made optional across campus, the decision of whether or not to enforce them has been left up to the dean of each college as the different settings may pose varying exposure risks.
“Some faculty, librarians, and staff instructors may ask students to continue wearing face coverings in classrooms,” university spokesperson Kellie Samson said. “We ask that students please comply with faculty members’ requests.”
Morgan Brumm, a fourth-year media studies student, said when given the option she would choose to wear a mask. “Wearing a mask has kept me from being sick. I can’t remember the last time I had the flu or even a cold,” she explained. “I love not being sick, so primarily for that reason I will continue to wear a mask.”
She expressed concern about the University potentially lifting the mandate too early. “If USF is too rash with this decision and in the future, masks once again become necessary for public safety, it will be much harder for USF to rally students and motivate them to wear masks for a second time after they’ve experienced a short period of freedom,” she said.
Fourth-year English major Isabella Pietro supports the decision. “As long as people who want to wear their mask feel comfortable and it’s on a volunteer basis, I think it’s a good next step towards opening up campus.”
However, Pietro said that she will continue to wear a mask. “I will personally be keeping mine on out of comfort because I don’t want people to perceive my face,” she said.
Samson explained the decision. “We have been working closely with the president’s cabinet, deans, the Covid Management Team, our medical consultants, and other groups on campus,” she stated.
“It is estimated that 95% of the population in the United States has some form of immunity or protection against COVID-19,” Samson continued. “This immunity, combined with the wide availability of tests and treatments, has greatly reduced the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.”
Another change to COVID-19 policies on campus involves the guest policy. According to the email announcement sent by president Fitzgerald earlier this month, “Student Housing and the Office of Community Living will remove all residential guest policy restrictions currently in place.”
Aron Ryvkin, a second-year economics major, said that this is the update he is most looking forward to. “Honestly, the guest policy did not make much sense to me to begin with,” he said. “I didn’t get why we could have guests over until midnight, but somehow if they spent the night it spread COVID.”
Despite these changes in policies, Samson said the University will “continue monitoring community infection levels and sharing any changes with the larger USF community.”
COVID-19 testing through GoHealth for students, faculty, and staff is available on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1-3 p.m., and Thursdays from 9:30-11:30 a.m. in University Center 501. To register, students can visit HPS COVID-19 Resources.
Jordan DelFiugo is a second-year psychology major and a general assignment reporter for the Foghorn. She can be reached at email@example.com.