By Michelle Larkin and Nene Narh-Mensah

Staff writers

After the University of Maryland lifted certain mask mandates, students are split on whether they feel comfortable on campus.

This university announced that masks would no longer be required except in classrooms, public transportation and in-patient care areas starting Feb. 28, according to a campus-wide email Feb. 25 from university President Darryll Pines.

The university made the decision due to its high vaccination and booster rates, diligent compliance with other health guidelines and the improving positivity and hospitalization rates, according to Pines’ email.

From Feb. 28 to March 10, the positivity rate for university-administered tests was 2.06 percent, and 98.3 percent of the university community has been vaccinated.

Transportation engineering graduate student Livingstone Imonitie said he supported removing the mask mandate, as well as possibly getting rid of the requirement in lab settings in the future. It would make the lab environment more comfortable, he said.

“Whenever we’re in the lab, everyone’s expected to put on the face masks. Sometimes we’re just two people in the lab, and we still have to be with our face masks,” Imonitie said. “It’s really too much.”

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Imonitie added he thought the mask mandate lift was a good call on the university’s part, saying masks shouldn’t be mandated and the lifting allows for people to wear them if they want.

“No one is scared of the virus anymore. It’s more like it’s part of our everyday life, like we know we are living with COVID, and COVID is not going away anytime soon,” he said.

Freshman management major Can Gunes often goes to Eppley Recreation Center. He was happy to see the mask mandate lifted in the gyms, since exercising with a mask often made if difficult to breathe.

He isn’t the only one. Gunes noted that since the lift, he’s seen only a few people wearing their masks at the gym.

“I don’t judge anyone. If you want to wear a mask, you can,” Gunes said. “Even with the mandate being lifted, you can still decide to protect yourself.”

With the university’s high vaccination rate and booster requirements, he feels comfortable and confident he won’t get sick. That confidence also travels to the classroom, where he wants to see mask mandates lifted as well. With a mask, the amount of intimacy is “reduced greatly” between students and faculty, he said.

However, some students, such as freshman marketing major Antony Robles, have become more aware of the amount of maskless students in certain settings.

Robles said he didn’t find the KN95 mask mandate to be strict in the first place. Additionally, he worried about the possibility of a spike in positive cases due to the lift.

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Robles said he will still be wearing his mask when he’s in close proximity with others, and he will be more aware of his surroundings now.

“I think [the university] should have waited just a little bit longer,” Robles said. “Because we’re still coming out of the winter months, where it’s flu season and people still [getting] sick,” he said, adding that they should’ve lifted the mandate when it got warmer.

Senior public policy major Severin Hilliard has an autoimmune disease and said that it’s been hard for her to deal with the pandemic thus far. She still doesn’t feel completely comfortable going out if she feels even a little sick –– the lift didn’t make her feel any better.

“I think I would drop out of school because that to me shows a lack of care about their students given their autoimmune status, or just in general,” Hilliard said, speaking on if the university continues to lift restrictions.

Additionally, she is worried about the university being influenced by those who claim everyone is going to get COVID-19, so it doesn’t matter.

“It’s just about trying to keep yourself safe and your community safe,” Hilliard said. “I will be fine with the pandemic, if we were all committed to collectively working together to erase it, but it seems like self-interest kind of gets in the way.”