Maya Washburn/ Asst. News Director & Samantha Vargas / Contributing Writer
It is no longer a requirement to wear masks on campus at FIU.
People who are fully vaccinated do not need to practice social distancing or wear masks according to CDC public health guidelines. An executive order by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis prohibited the use of a requirement for documentation or “vaccine passports” of the COVID-19 vaccine in the state of Florida on April 2.
On May 5, the State University System of Florida announced that all Florida public universities are expected to return to full pre-COVID operations by the 2021-2022 academic year.
In response, FIU changed their wording from “required” to “recommended” in regards to wearing masks. This began with a university wide email sent out on May 7 stating “FIU adjusts COVID-19 mitigation measures.”
The email added that “everyone is encouraged to continue wearing face coverings indoors, given they are an effective layer of protection from COVID-19.” It referenced the Panther Protecting Panthers website for more information.
The website indicates the university recommends that masks are worn on campus.
An announcement dedicated to the new facial covering stance on campus was not sent out to the university community. Signage on campus have been adjusted to reflect the new recommended mask policy.
Julie Murphy, a senior studying psychology and building supervisor student employee at the FIU Wellness and Recreation Centers (WRC), explained how they integrated the change.
“Because we’re at the WRC, we needed to be informed…that the policy changed,” said Murphy. “There wasn’t really a big announcement about it. It was just kind of, ‘hey, we’re slowly integrating towards change.’ We just couldn’t fully enforce [mask wearing anymore.]”
She said that she had a period of adjustment to the new policy at work.
“[During] the first week or two, I found myself seeing someone without a mask on and start to, out of instinct, go up and [say], ‘excuse me,’ but then as soon as I started to approach, I’d be like, wait a minute. The policy’s changed; there’s not a need for me to do that,” said Murphy.
Murphy mentioned that student employees at the WRC are still expected to wear their masks as part of their required work uniform.
She noticed the change in signs around campus and was notified of the new policy because she was a student employee. She said she understands why the university did not promote this to the university community.
“I can imagine it was a really hard decision of how to [inform students that masks are no longer required on campus] because [they] don’t want to come off as if it’s a free-for-all,” said Murphy. “I think in the long run, they are doing the best they can with how to move forwards.”
Other Florida universities, such as Florida State University and the University of Florida, are making similar changes to their mask guidelines. They have informed students in recent statements that wearing a mask while on campus is now recommended rather than required.
Florida State University ended their mask mandate while indoors as of May 7. They now only recommend that students and faculty wear masks while on campus. They also intend to operate on full capacity in classrooms starting the upcoming Fall 2021 semester.
As of May 17, the University of Florida announced they would not be requiring students, faculty, staff, and those visiting their campuses to wear masks while both indoors and outdoors. Those who are not vaccinated are also being encouraged to continue to wear masks.
UF also announced they would be relaxing social distancing measures. They anticipate having their Summer B and Fall in-person classes at full capacity, similar to FIU. It is implied that the mask requirement will end while in class as well.
Local private universities, such as the University of Miami, are shifting closer to normalcy, but not at the same rate. As of May 26, UM students are no longer required to wear masks outside while on campus or submit a daily symptoms check.
UM is still requiring that masks be worn while in class and in public, indoor spaces. Fully vaccinated faculty, staff, and students are allowed to go maskless in administrative areas, but those who are not vaccinated wear masks in all indoor settings.
Murphy said that in the midst of these changes in the state, she sees more of a need for unity and respect.
“As policies change, everyone has their own opinion on things…at the end of the day, each person has to do what’s best for them mentally, emotionally [and] spiritually. I think common respect for people is the best way we can move forward as a unified campus and society.”
PantherNOW has not received a statement on the mask requirement policy change from an FIU faculty member. This story will be updated.