Gov. McKee lifts statewide mask mandates, but RIC and CCRI keep them in place
Governor Dan McKee is lifting Rhode Island’s mask mandates. The decision, with guidance from the Rhode Island Department of Health, was made after the decrease in COVID cases and hospitalizations.
“Thanks to Rhode Islanders stepping up to do the right thing, together we’ve made considerable progress against COVID-19 and the winter surge,” McKee said. “Based on our decreasing case and hospitalization numbers, our team at the Department of Health feels confident in our plan to safely shift masking guidance for both schools and public settings as we move into an endemic management phase of the virus.”
Following McKee’s decision, the indoor masking mandate for businesses and venues of assembly expired on Friday, Feb. 11. The mandate for schools will end on Friday, Mar. 4. Even though the statewide mandate is expiring, individual businesses are still able to come up with their own mandate. The same applies for individual cities, towns and school committees.
Those who have underlying conditions and haven’t been vaccinated are recommended to wear masks.
How will McKee’s decision affect higher educational institutions? As for CCRI and RIC, both colleges plan to keep the mandate in place.
“At this time, CCRI plans to continue with the policy to require masks on campus. As we have done since the start of this pandemic, we will continue to review our COVID policies to ensure we are keeping our college community healthy and safe from COVID and will make decisions in coordination with recommendations from public health officials,” CCRI’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Amy Kempe told The Anchor.
She added, “The Governor’s announcement did not address institutions of higher education, and unlike local K-12 school districts, CCRI is a large and complex institution with an entirely commuter population, which is a factor in how decisions are made.”
RIC’s decision and reasoning to uphold their mask mandate is similar to CCRI’s.
“On Wednesday, Governor Dan McKee and the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) announced the expiration of statewide mask mandates on March 4, leaving such decisions to local officials. We will continue to consult with RIDOH and the RI Council on Postsecondary Education to ensure that our policies are consistent with best practices to protect the health and safety of our campus community,” Michelle Cardono, the Assistant to President Sánchez told The Anchor. “Per the RI Department of Administration, we will continue to require masks in all campus buildings until further notice.”
The decision is up to Sánchez. “President Sánchez will meet with members of the college’s executive cabinet and the RIC COVID Steering and Operations Committees to review options and recommendations based on state and federal guidance,” says Cardono.
Cardono further explained that since McKee recently made the announcement, a timeline for when RIC will lift their mask mandate is “just beginning.”
She added, “Guidance from state and federal officials will be used to develop options and recommendations, and to inform the college president’s decision.”
As for now, RIC, a college with a high vaccination rate that includes a booster shot, will continue with its mask mandate.