From now on, don’t be surprised to see people around campus double masking or even wearing a KN95 or N-95 mask. Part of the new mask policy at Keene State requires faculty and students to wear a surgical mask or better.
An email sent by President Melinda Treadwell on February 23 stated, “Starting on Monday, March 1, all students will be required to wear a surgical mask, or better (N95, KF94, KN95, 3-layer fitted tightly woven mask, or fitted mask with a HEPA filter) in classrooms. This is strongly recommended in all other situations.
Surgical masks will be provided to students by the College at the COVID-19 test site starting this Thursday and Friday. Faculty members will communicate further with students about this requirement.”
The Equinox believes that the change to a more strict mask policy is long overdue, especially given the recent increase in COVID-19 cases around campus and in our community.
Although the new policy is necessary and valuable, there are some ambiguities with the guidelines. According to the guidelines, KN95, N95 or a surgical mask are required in classrooms. While this is good on the surface, this goes against the CDC’s most recent guidelines on mask wearing. According to the CDC, a surgical mask is a “loose fitting face seal fit,” while an N95 mask is not. The email sent out on February 23 said, “Wearing a snug-fitting mask when with anyone else” is required. Although The Equinox believes that wearing a surgical mask is better than wearing no mask, it does not provide as much protection as the other mask options. According to the CDC, a surgical mask “does NOT provide the wearer with a reliable level of protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles and is not considered respiratory protection.”
Along with the new guidelines on mask wearing, the school now requires bi-weekly COVID testing. At the testing, the school provides students with one surgical mask per week. While the offer is generous, The Equinox believes that the school should hand out multiple masks per week to students, instead of just the one.
According to an article from Fox 13 Memphis, multiple medical experts explained that you should not “wear a surgical mask for more than two days in a row.”
Although the surgical mask is only required in classrooms, we still believe that students should be given more than one surgical mask.
The Equinox agrees with the college’s new mask mandate, however, the communication and the execution could have been better.