University mask and vaccine guidance draw mixed reactions from students

Despite set rules from the University, students still disagree over what safety precautions should be taken to stop COVID-19 spread

To protect students and faculty from COVID-19, ASU officials have required mask-wearing in indoor spaces on campus where social distancing is not possible. At the same time, vaccines against the virus are recommended for the entire community, despite a varied response from the student body.  

While the debate at the state and national levels over how to address and implement safety measures has been ongoing since the first case in the U.S., college students are facing it head-on.

Policies to protect students and faculty have been in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — masks are required where social distancing is not possible and spaces are equipped with cleaning supplies that are meant to be used daily. 

Cambelle Gregory, a freshman studying film, said a mask mandate in most classrooms is "a good step towards fighting back against COVID-19. Since everyone isn't vaccinated I feel like it's a good way to prevent anything from going around."

Face masks along with other preventative measures can slow the spread of COVID-19, according to Mayo Clinic.

Another student, Baylee Little, a junior studying history, had a similar viewpoint to safety. 

"ASU's classroom mask mandate is in place for good reason," Little said. "If COVID-19, and now Delta, is still a big enough threat to warrant a mandate, then it is important to follow."

However, not all students believe a mask mandate is necessary because of the demographics of college campuses. According to data from the Arizona Department of Health Services, people aged 20-44 make up most of the state's total cases. The same demographic ranks second lowest in the total number of deaths. 

Jordan Forteza, a junior studying sports business, said wearing masks and getting a vaccine should be a personal choice.

"I don't really believe that COVID-19 will affect me that greatly. I'm young, healthy and don't have any pre-existing conditions," Forteza said.

With the recent rise of the Delta variant, Gregory said ASU should mandate the vaccine after one of the three available shots was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The other two vaccines remain available for emergency use authorization.

"Just like any other vaccine needed to get into this school, it should be required," Gregory said.

At ASU, incoming freshmen must provide proof of two measles vaccinations. The COVID-19, meningitis, HPV, flu and whopping cough vaccines are recommended.

Other students believe differently about a possible COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

READ MORE: Ducey issues order barring universities from requiring COVID-19 vaccine

"I do believe personally that the vaccine is something people should do, especially now that it has been FDA approved," Little said. "Maybe instead of making it mandatory, keep or even intensify the mask mandate and offer an incentive to get the vaccine."

Forteza rejected a possible vaccine mandate. 

"I think that getting the vaccine should be a personal choice," Forteza said. "In America, we've always focused on personal freedoms and choices, and I don't think that should change due to this virus."

Gregory and Little have both been vaccinated against COVID-19 while Forteza has yet to receive a shot. The two vaccinated students said getting vaccinated is to ensure the well-being of others. 

"I have some high risk people in my life and I would hate to pass along COVID-19 to them. Also it's for the greater good if everyone gets one to stop the spread of COVID-19," Gregory said. 

While students in college may be more independent, outside sources of information and influence are still part of their decision-making. Little said while many young people get their opinions from those of their parents, her own mother's emphasis on the importance of independent thought helped her form her own opinions.

"She never told me her political views because she wanted me to come up with my own opinions," Little said. "Kids need to come up with views of their own even if it goes against their parents, that is the only chance we have at breaking this huge divide in the political system we have today."


Reach the reporter at trricha2@asu.edu and follow @therrealtristan on Twitter.

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