Rhode Island College updated their policy regarding masking on Wednesday. Effective immediately, masks are now required in classrooms, faculty offices and student staff offices. This update in the masking policy comes following weeks of a rise in cases and hospitalizations in and around Providence County.
The requirement can however be waived by the professor, staff member or tutor.
Outside the classrooms, which includes the hallways of the same buildings as classes, RIC says, “Masks are encouraged, but not required.” Those who have not been fully vaccinated or have a religious or medical exemption are required to both test and wear a mask.
Two main factors played a role in why hallways are fair game to not wear a mask but will be required in classes: Enforceability and how much close contact can or can’t be avoided in the setting.
This decision has caught the attention of a number of people who aren’t in favor of these mask mandates.
“Your professor now decides if you wear a mask at Rhode Island College,” Nicole Solas, senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum’s Education Freedom Center, wrote on Twitter following the announcement.
Republican State Rep. and former House Minority Leader, Brian Newberry, shared a similar sentiment, writing in a quote-tweet about the updated policy, “Is this based on “The Science”? Or is this more like seeing if a witch floats?”
The college told The Anchor Friday that, “The decision was based on the community transmission level for Providence County as determined by the RI Department of Health.”
Currently, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has Providence County’s weekly COVID-19 community level at “High,” with Bristol, Kent, Washington and Newport counties being at “Medium.” Alongside those numbers, the RIDOH’s data says within the past four weeks, 29.8% of hospitalizations saw COVID as the main cause, and a contributing cause for 32.5%.
At the time of publication, other colleges in the state have different policies regarding masks.
The Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) is not requiring masks. According to CCRI’s website, their policy states, “Masks will no longer be required on campus, and we will support those who make the personal choice to continue to wear masks. Unvaccinated individuals are strongly encouraged to wear a mask while on campus.”
Johnson and Wales University updated their policy Thursday, but in terms of masking, their website says, “Mask-wearing, regardless of vaccination status, is optional and no longer required inside or outside buildings on campus. However, anyone who feels more comfortable wearing a mask (KN95 recommended) is fully supported in doing so. Masks are still required in Health Services offices.”
As for who made the decision at RIC, it came from a combination of the administration and “input from the Center for Health and Wellness.”