Multi-layered masking update

Hamline’s latest mask mandate requires multiple layers such as double masking or a KN-95 to be worn.

Anika Besst, News Editor

With Hamline’s new mask mandate, surgical masks can be worn when layered with
other cloth masks. (Rachel Peterson)

The fight against COVID-19 continues as Hamline enters it’s fifth semester impacted by the pandemic.

One of the university’s latest decisions to keep COVID-19 at bay is the new mask mandate that was sent in an email to the Hamline community on  January 22, 2022. 

Prior to the change, the policy was that masks of any sort had to be worn indoors. The updated mandate requires that a KN-95 or double mask must be worn. 

This is in line with the latest CDC and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommendations that suggest masking and vaccinations are the two most effective ways to protect against COVID-19. 

Senior Raina Meyer is a senior and the external co-president of Hamline Undergraduate Student Congress (HUSC) this year. The new mask mandate has helped her feel comfortable with coming back for her final semester. 

“[The requirement] enables me to be in person and learn the way that I learn best, so I’m really appreciative of that,” Meyer said. “Overall, I’d say that I feel comfortable and a lot less anxious than I have in previous semesters.”

The spring semester began during an Omicron variant surge in Minnesota which caused trepidation for members of the Hamline community. With contract tracing still in place in classroom settings, it has been found that there has been no transmission due to classes, which enables them to reconsider contact-tracing being used for classes and reallocate that resource. 

Bush Memorial Library adverstises the new policy near the entrance to ensure everyone meets maskingrequirements(Rachel Peterson)

“We at Hamline are doing more with contact tracing overall at this point than other institutions. Last semester we found it very difficult to identify and notify possible classroom contacts,” COVID Consultant Tracey Stoeckel wrote in an email. “Happily we did not have a single positive case traced to a classroom exposure. We are feeling certain that with upgraded masking, that effort will no longer be necessary.”

A concern of this new mask mandate was the increase in cost. Hamline is working to provide masks for students by supplying professors with masks to distribute and having campus-wide distribution days. 

The costs for these masks are coming out of the university’s dollars and the overall operation budget. HUSC is in the process of working out an arrangement with the Dean of Students’ office to finance future mask shipments. 

“We just want to make sure that the community has the resources and have what they need, as well as, have the education of this is what you really should be wearing right now,” Dean of Students Patti Kersten said. “I’m hoping that people felt like we not only put forth a policy but we provided the resources to be able to follow that policy.” 

HUSC also created a survey for students to complete relating to how they are feeling about COVID-19. The questions were drafted by HUSC members based on their own experiences and what they have heard from their peers.

 The findings informed HUSC that students value online options in these unpredictable times and are feeling most comfortable with a range of modalities. 

The KN-95 masks often come in wrappers or packages to be thrown away.
(Rachel Peterson)

“We’ve been hearing a lot from students about how when there isn’t an online option that their learning stops… and it’s just being locked out of class entirely when you’re sick or for whatever reason, if you can’t go to class,” Meyer said. “I think the pandemic has really shown us that it’s really important to have additional options for people who could utilize them…That’s part of the reason why we put out the survey. We wanted to see how accessible classes were on campus.” 

With this new mask policy, Hamline is discussing how and when to schedule another mask distribution day. 

“I have been here working to mitigate the COVID risk at Hamline since August of 2020. I continue to be impressed with the students and their resilience in making the best of life in a pandemic and their commitment to keeping their friends and neighbors safe,” Stoeckel wrote. 

A variety of hanging masks including a surgical mask, KN-95 and cloth mask.
(Rachel Peterson )