Students piled into State College for the fall semester in late August with a glimmer of hope for a more “normal” semester. The announcement of in-person classes, in-person football games and just a more mundane college campus atmosphere excited Penn State students.
However, while vaccines become more readily available and the end was in sight, a new mask mandate was put into place for State College on Sept. 13. This ordinance was approved unanimously by the city council for mask mandates to temporarily continue on in businesses and public indoor spaces. The mandate is set to expire on Nov. 22.
According to StateCollege.com, this mandate was in response to the growing amount COVID-19 cases. Centre County came in at the highest level of transmission according to the Center for Disease Control since Aug. 27, just a few days after the first day of classes for Penn State.
The mandate has been put in place to ensure the safety of those living throughout State College, considering children under 12 years old still are unable to receive any vaccine.
According to Penn State News, more than 80% of students attending the University Park campus are vaccinated and 83% of Penn State employees are as well.
While the mask mandate does concern all university buildings, indoor businesses and public facilities in Centre County, it doesn’t apply to outdoor gatherings.
Penn State has held three football games as of Sept. 25, all of which did not require masks on the bleachers or any outdoor part of the stadium. The whiteout game against Auburn University had 109,958 fans in attendance, the 10th-largest crowd of Penn State history, and held College Gameday on Old Main lawn with many fans in the crowd.
It is easier to enforce masks inside businesses, but some students question the purpose and consistency of this new mask mandate.
“I get the use and importance of the mask mandate, but if the mandate doesn’t apply to football games and outside spaces but only indoors at Penn State, I don’t see how it is helping at all. If masking up is only for indoors even larger groups of people outside and at football games are all being exposed,” said Laurel Kurtic, a junior at Penn State studying criminology.
As of Sept. 26, there are 19,104 COVID-19 cases in Centre County and 235 deaths. The cases are up by 75 and deaths are up by one.
Penn State itself has implemented masks in all indoor spaces and required students to either be vaccinated or weekly tested at centers around campus.
The university is taking the precautions seriously, telling faculty that they can suspend a class if a student fails to comply with the mask policy. According to StateCollege.com, Penn State has suspended 117 students for failing to comply with the testing requirements in place to protect their students.
Penn State has not announced any alternative plans for instruction following Thanksgiving break — like the extended break of 2020 — but with the rising in cases, it is important to take the mask mandate seriously to ensure the maintenance of in-person classes and in-person activities through Penn State to continue past the break, and to avoid a $300 fine.