Millersville University will require all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks indoors when social distancing is not possible, university President Daniel Wubah announced Thursday.
The shift, which goes into effect Monday, comes one day after Penn State University announced it’s implementing a universal mask requirement immediately with COVID-19 rapidly evolving.
At Millersville, masks will be required in classrooms and other common spaces, such as hallways and meeting areas. They will not be required in residence hall suites or when alone in offices.
Previously, unvaccinated students were encouraged to wear a mask, but there was no requirement.
Millersville also recently announced it is requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test for unvaccinated students prior to moving into campus housing.
This week, with cases on the rise, particularly among unvaccinated individuals, Lancaster County moved into “substantial” community transmission of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“With cases rising steadily in Lancaster County and new CDC guidance recommending ‘universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status,’ being safe is going to take extra effort,” Wubah said in an email to the campus community Thursday evening.
Wubah said, however, that “being safe begins with vaccination,” and encouraged everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated to do so as soon as possible. He also announced a team made of faculty, staff and students tasked with monitoring COVID-19.
“These past few weeks have brought many moments of joy as faculty, staff and students have begun to return to campus,” he said. “I am eager to see that trend continue and know that with a little precaution and care we will have a remarkable and rewarding year.”
Millersville spokesperson Janet Kacskos confirmed the move to require masks was a university decision, not one made by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, of which Millersville is a member. However, West Chester University, another PASSHE school, announced a similar mask requirement recently.
Apart from masks and vaccines, Millersville is planning a somewhat normal return in the fall — a normal distribution of in-person and online classes, residence halls at full capacity, most employees back at work and the return of on-campus events.
Other local colleges’ policies vary
At Franklin & Marshall College, masking depends on students’ vaccination status as well as the college’s campus alert level. There are four levels — low, moderate, high and very high. The higher the level, the more widespread the virus is and, therefore, the more restrictive mitigation measures in place.
Under the low or moderate level, only unvaccinated students are required to wear a mask indoors and outdoors if social distancing cannot be maintained. If the campus is under the high or very high level, masks will be required for everyone, vaccinated or not, under those same conditions. Information released with the alert levels did not detail exactly what factors would prompt the college to step up or down between the levels.
F&M requires students to get vaccinated prior to living or attending classes on campus. However, students may seek a religious or medical exemption, so there may be unvaccinated students on campus this fall.
Elizabethtown College, meanwhile, “strongly encourages” mask-wearing for those who are not vaccinated, but there is no requirement in place.