“To mask or not to mask:” mandates and testing needed at WC – The Elm

“To mask or not to mask:” mandates and testing needed at WC – The Elm


By Belle Leiphart

Elm Staff Writer

As the world approaches the start of its third year of COVID-19, many people are in a hurry to return to normal. As a result of this, many institutions removed their mask mandates, including Washington College.

As cases remain high, we must ask ourselves if this is the right course of action.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an average of 82,044 new cases of COVID-19 reported daily.

With a student body as small as WC, it can be easy to forget the severity of COVID-19, and its impacts on a community. Many of us see the campus as a bubble in which we are safe due to small size and gateway testing. But none of these truly protect us from the present threat of this pandemic. 

An individual can test negative and still carry COVID-19. Because of this, gateway testing is only partially effective. To be truly effective, testing should be done as soon as an individual arrives on campus, as well as five to seven days afterwards. 

Despite its small size, WC is still incredibly susceptible to an outbreak. 

According to the first WC Response Team update emailed on August 31, the COVID-19 community level in Kent County is high. They also noted that there were six positive cases among students. 

As of now, there is no official method of contact tracing. Students who test positive are not required to tell others about their situation.

Not requiring students to inform their peers of their testing status prevents the spread of information on whether or not an individual was in close contact with someone who has tested positive. The lack of communication can lead to more individuals being exposed and infected, as well as spreading the disease to others. 

There is no official contact tracing being done. It is completely optional to the individual to inform their peers, which could consequently lead to more people exposing others. 

If there is no mask mandate, then the college should increase testing and inform students about on-campus COVID-19 cases.

During the 2021-2022 school year, health services would conduct weekly surveillance testing for unvaccinated individuals, as well as athletes and musicians that practice without masks. It was announced this semester that weekly surveillance testing will no longer occur. 

Despite this change, health services should be testing students, informing them if they might have been exposed, and encouraging them to mask up in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As COVID-19 levels in Kent and surrounding counties remain high, it’s important to remember that our small community is not immune. It’s strongly recommended to wear a mask and take other precautions when on and off campus, including downtown Chestertown. 

Wearing a mask is not the most comfortable feeling, but it is effective in reducing one’s chances of testing positive for COVID-19.

The CDC stated that by wearing masks, one can reduce the chance of testing positive by 56% to 83% depending on the type of mask worn (56% for cloth masks, 66% for surgical masks, and 83% for N95 or KN95). Choosing to wear a mask is a personal choice, but for students and staff who have frequent, close contact with people indoors, those who are immunocompromised, or those who  live with elderly or young children, should strongly consider wearing masks. 

Photo Curtesy of Grace Hazlehurst

Photo Caption: Washington College students can choose whether or not to wear a mask indoors this semester. In the past, the school had an official mask mandate to prevent further infection.


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