Masks have become the new normal on campus this fall due to the University's COVID-19 mandate. According to the university, students, professors, faculty, and staff are required to wear medical masks, cloth masks, or non-medical masks while inside any building on campus and when they are in a situation where they are less than 6 ft away from somebody else.
With no vaccine available yet people are looking at more preventative means of protection. Students, faculty, and staff on DePauw’s campus widely accept the mask mandate. “Most people are wearing them because I think none of us want to go home, so that adds a little responsibility,” said sophomore Reese Bergstrom.
Professors at DePauw have been interested in learning about the virus as well. Shannon Crary, a Biochemistry and Chemistry professor, as well as the Director of the Global Health Program at DePauw, has put a lot of time and effort into reading research about the transmission of viruses.
“There is pretty clear evidence that the tactics we are using to prevent the spread of this coronavirus are also stopping influenza spread,” Crary said. “Both South Africa and New Zealand have reported record low numbers of cases of influenza this year.”
In Greencastle, there are many people that do not like to wear masks in public places.
“It is sort of frustrating that people won't do such a simple thing to protect themselves and the people they love,” Crary said. “If we all just did it we could get back to normal so quickly!” Crary’s comment is backed by many studies carried out by scientists around the world that prove this.
One study that was carried out on June 16, 2020, by Wei Lyu and George Wehby who work at the University of Iowa, focused on states that had a mandated mask policy versus those who did not. The data shows that when people wear masks in public, the frequency and amount of cases drop.
Another study carried out by Virginia Commonwealth University, which was updated on August 4, 2020, looked at countries that had mask use required versus countries that didn't. The experiment specifically looked at mortality rates. Again, the data collected shows that when there were no masks present there is a spike in deaths.
Crary provided the graphs and information on the spread of the virus.
DePauw’s mask regulations stipulate that they must be worn when people are within 6 feet of someone, are inside the DePauw Health Wellness Center, immediately upon experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, immediately upon learning they were in close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 and while in quarantine, as described in the university’s mask policy. Stevie Baker Watson, a member of the Covid-19 task force and athletic director says that she does not expect the Covid-19 mask policy to change anytime soon.
According to Baker-Watson, athletes are required to wear masks when they aren’t participating in intense exercise. “When engaged in intense exercise, or in the pool, they can be removed and social distancing should be maintained to the best of their ability. In general, we encourage our student-athletes to ‘wear a mask until they can't’” Baker-Watson said.
On the other hand, coaches are required to wear masks at all times.
The number of COVID-19 cases on campus has been relatively low. Currently, there has been a spike of 8 cases on campus, with 5 in isolation and 48 in quarantine. However, last week there were no cases.
23 students on-campus have already been infected by COVID-19 this semester. Wearing a mask is just a simple thing people can do to protect one another and their families.
Crary mentioned that preventing the unnecessary spread is personal to her since she has a good friend that is currently in the hospital due to Covid and he is struggling. “He is a wonderful person who is committed to service and always giving to his community. There is no reason that he should be suffering like this” Crary said, “and if he dies, it will be a loss to the world. I hope people can find it in their hearts and in their willpower to do the right thing for a little longer so we can defeat this virus.”