Updated: Sep 20, 2022
Belmont University’s mask mandate comes to end Wednesday morning.
An email sent to students Tuesday night confirmed indoor masking will be optional on campus starting at 8 a.m., relaxing a mandate which has been in place since students returned in August 2020. Masks were mandatory both indoors and outdoors during the 2020-21 school year.
“Those who wish to continue to wear masks are welcome to do so,” the email said.
Belmont set a pandemic record for positive COVID-19 cases in one week with 121 diagnoses among students, faculty and staff the week of Jan. 30. Cases steadily declined in the following weeks, with only 12 reported Monday.
“The decision to move to a Masks Optional Policy has been made based on the COVID-19 Task Force’s continued review of the University’s case count, which has seen significant decreases in the past few weeks, as well as data from within Davidson County and across the state of Tennessee,” said the email.
The omicron variant peaked in Nashville in mid-January with a 7-day average of 2,113 cases, according to the New York Times. The average has since declined to 187 cases as of Monday.
The Belmont community reacted quickly to the news, with some saying the change in policy leaves the most vulnerable members of the Belmont community behind.
“I think that the university should be offering Zoom classes if they’re going to implement this lifting of the mandate, and it feels as if they do not really care about the health and the needs of immunocompromised students or disabled students,” said junior Claire Cole.
At the same time, many are excited to leave the masks in their backpacks.
“I’m super pro-mask and I got vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible. I even still wear my mask in places where it’s optional. But frankly, I’m excited for the mask mandate to drop at Belmont,” said senior Kenzie Culver.
“Wasn’t that the point of getting vaccinated in the first place? I got vaccinated first and foremost to protect the people around me, but another huge motivator was also so that I didn’t have to wear a mask anymore,” said Culver.
Belmont’s current vaccination rates stand at almost 75% for students, 80% for staff and 84% for faculty, according to data updated Monday.
Others look forward to experiencing Belmont without any COVID-19 restrictions.
“I’m excited to see people’s faces again — or actually for the first time because I’m a sophomore, so I’ve never had a normal experience in a classroom,” said Izabel Leveille.
This article was written by Sarah Maninger, David Pang and Anna Jackson.