Vanderbilt removes temporary mask mandate

The CDC updated Davidson County’s COVID-19 community level to “medium” on June 24.


Anjali Chanda

A COVID-19 sign on campus, as photographed November 6, 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/Anjali Chanda)

Shunnar Virani, Staff Writer

Vanderbilt lifted its temporary indoor masking mandate on June 24. According to the university’s June 24 press release, the decision was made as a result of Davidson County’s COVID-19 community level being lowered to “medium.”

Davidson County was upgraded to “high” COVID-19 community level on June 17, after which Vanderbilt immediately reinstated a temporary mask mandate. 

“Throughout the pandemic, the university has followed the latest scientific updates and developed its plans in close consultation with experts at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, as well as national, state and local public health officials,” the press release reads.

While the indoor masking requirement has been lifted, the press release advises continued compliance with the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines for medium COVID-19 community level.

For a medium COVID-19 community level, the CDC recommends that people at high risk for severe illness should consult with a healthcare provider on whether they need to wear a mask or take other precautionary measures. No changes to the university’s testing or vaccination procedures have been announced. 

A medium COVID-19 community level, for an area that has 200 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the past 7 days, means that the number of hospital admissions per 100,000 people in Davidson County this week is under 10 and the inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients is under 10%.

From June 16-23, Davidson County reported 208.75 new cases per 100,000 people, a 12.66% decrease in the last week. There were 8.9 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people and 2.1% staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in Davidson County. The CDC also reported that Davidson County currently has 457,561 people fully vaccinated, accounting for 65.9% of the population. This data is updated every Thursday by the CDC.

Some students are relieved by the removal of the mask requirement.

“Lifting the mask mandate allowed for smoother interactions with professors and peers in the classroom while respecting an individual’s choice to wear a mask,” sophomore Siddharth Shah said.

Sophomore Morrigan Dunlap-Loomis expressed concern for the removal of the mask mandate. She believes masks made the campus safer.

“It will be nice not having to wear a mask because of how irritating it can be, but I do not think I will ever feel completely comfortable indoors with lots of other students not wearing a mask,” Dunlap-Loomis said. “Masks help protect not only yourself but the people around you.”

Senior Tucker Apgar serves as a residential advisor (RA) on campus this summer and is working in a lab at Vanderbilt. Despite its recent reinstatement, Apgar said he expected the reversal of the mandate.

“I can’t help but laugh at how quickly the mask requirement was lifted,” Apgar said. “I’m not surprised given that the original rule was in response to COVID at the local level.”