Why FIU Is Wrong to Relax Mask Mandate

Jacek Poblocki/Unsplash

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

Americans are excited. With vaccinations on the rise and infections down, people are eagerly awaiting the day when COVID-19 is behind us.

However, with universities being among the most affected institutions by the pandemic, there is a strong temptation to return to normal as fast as possible. I can attest, as many of my friends have been denied a normal run through college. FIU, up until this point, has handled COVID-19 impressively, with remote options, the P3 survey and adjustments to dining operations.

I understand that President Rosenberg has the best of intentions and only wants students to experience the very best that FIU has to offer. However, rushing to full capacity alongside masks now being downgraded from “recommended” to “required” is a dangerous misstep that will endanger our student population. 

FIU had mandated face coverings up until recently, following the CDC’s announcement that such coverings are no longer necessary for fully vaccinated individuals. However, the university did not seem to specify this detail on signs, as my friends have spotted them indicating the recommendation without further guidance. The change was made gradually so as to avoid misconceptions, according to our PantherNOW writers.

I would argue that either step is too much, too fast. Not everyone has received a COVID-19 vaccine, and many cannot, for health reasons. I would argue further that the CDC giving fully vaccinated people the green light to ditch their masks is dangerous. Both these things pose a needless risk to unvaccinated individuals, and may promote discrimination against them. 

In addition, we can all probably picture someone who would use these guidelines to stop wearing a mask even if they may have symptoms, or know people at particular risk.

I understand as well the concerns over government overreach, given how vaccine passports and some forms of certification could lead to further authoritarian tendencies all over the world. FIU and Miami know too well the importance of freedom.

However, the way to promote freedom is not to fully curb public safety, but to create clear guidelines for how to proceed with public health and make it compatible with daily life. Masks and physical distancing represent this.

The university has a myriad of opportunities, as we remember fondly of pre-COVID times. Therefore, I see things like this as a trade-off: if we want social activities, we need to pay the price of wearing our masks. It is only fair to the most vulnerable and ensures compliance with safety standards among the hesitant.

Many states that were lax in safely reopening have seen a surge in infections as a consequence: Florida, Texas, South Dakota, and Idaho, to name a few. In Miami-Dade alone, one in five residents have had COVID-19, according to the New York Times. And around one in ten Floridians have had the disease, too.

Removing the mask mandate could create an opening for non-students to spend time on campus for the sole purpose of going mask-free. Given how much transportation occurs to and from this commuter school, I can firmly anticipate this phenomenon. It is especially pronounced in a city that was battered by COVID-19, given its demographics.

This time may include parties, which could become excessive for campus if they spiral out of control.

Fully or partially vaccinated individuals are still somewhat capable of spreading COVID-19 to the unvaccinated. This cannot be ignored. Vaccinated people have even fallen ill with COVID-19, highlighting the importance of maintaining safety measures to protect everyone.

In my view, removing this mandate is simply unfair to those who have been patiently awaiting their return to campus while staying safe. Some, like me, have vulnerable family members and would dread spending another semester at home. Many students come to this global community from all over the world, and a surge in infections would taint their experience and make FIU seem unsafe and medically asinine.

Another shutdown would not surprise me with this forceful a reopening. And for the time being, those uncomfortable being on a fully repopulated campus without a mask mandate are forced to tune into online classes. Not remote ones, that at least have mandatory Zoom meetings, but online classes, where the only communication with the instructor is via email and there is miniscule interaction with classmates.

Going further, it is not fair to our faculty and staff, who have already been effectively forced back onto campus after doing a stellar job of teaching remotely. Many have children and vulnerable family members at home and may have to return to virtual learning if there is an outbreak on campus. Those who cannot get vaccinated are put at needless risk after all they have done for the FIU community.

I understand the eagerness in wanting to slam the door on the safety measures, but we can push through for a little longer. We are not fully out of the woods yet, and may not be for a long time. We have endured worse things as a community from every corner of the globe, and every walk of life.

Until infections are on a ceaseless spiral down, and broad immunity is developed, we must band together in the name of preserving our safety and country. I am beyond excited to return to one of my homes, FIU, and get back to Miami living! But unless every Panther is safe, no one is fully safe.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by Jacek Pobłocki on Unsplash