Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) new guidance that most Americans can safely be places without masks, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins revised mask wearing guidelines Friday, Feb. 25.
Dallas no longer requires people to wear masks in public places, except for homeless shelters, jails, long-term care facilities, and health care settings. The CDC also announced a low, medium, or high risk ranking structure by county to determine the threat of contracting COVID in that area. Dallas County currently resides in the low category.
Since the CDC and Dallas County announcements, several professors at SMU who started out the semester implementing mask mandates decided to no longer require students to wear them in the classroom. Professors like Pamela Corley, Jacqueline Fellows, and Matthew Lockard lifted their restrictions the following week.
“I decided to lift mask mandates because of the CDC’s new guidelines, it seemed to me that the risks to the student population would be low,” Professor Lockard, who teaches philosophy, said.
A majority of the students in Lockard’s Philosophy 1301: Elementary Logic class opted to no longer wear masks following his new policy.
“I feel safe enough now that Dallas is at low risk to no longer wear a mask in classes,” sophomore student Sutton Soinski said.
Although several classes no longer require masks, some students prefer to continue wearing them around campus.
“I wear a mask because it makes me feel more protected against COVID,” junior student Kate Collins said. “I also think that it’s a habit, my parents are a bit high risk and I want to make sure they’re safe.”
There are various reasons behind why some SMU students have chosen to continue wearing masks since the pandemic.
“I certainly support students who want to continue to keep wearing masks,” Professor Lockard said.
While some students prefer to continue wearing masks, others have varying opinions.
Cox School of Business student, Maddie Campbell, appreciates her professors who do not require masks to be worn in her classes.
“Sometimes when I am wearing a mask it distracts me from paying attention in class because all I can think about is how hot it is, if it’s itchy, if I am allowed to pull it down to get a sip of water, and after a while it can start aching behind my ears,” Campbell said.
Students and professors alike have acknowledged the obstacles that come along with mask wearing in the classroom.
“There are trade-offs to wearing masks, it can make instruction and communication a little more difficult,” Professor Lockard said.
Although guidelines were recently reduced by the CDC and Dallas County, case numbers can always rise. Administrators at SMU have made it clear that their policies are subject to change with the COVID risk level throughout the semester.
“I am very aware of the fact that case counts may start going up, so that’s why I have warned everybody I reserve the right to reimpose my mask mandate,” Professor Lockard said.