Students and staff share opinions about the recent changes in vaccination policies
BY AMBER LUCAS, STAFF WRITER
Many businesses and colleges, including Mason, in line with the mask mandates and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, have been employing mask and vaccine mandates for nearly two years. Due to this mandate, 93 percent of the population at Mason is fully vaccinated, as well as a very low positive testing rate, reported as just over 2.6 percent by President Gregory Washington.
Washington announced in an email sent to staff and students on Jan. 31, that while wearing masks and getting vaccinated is still “strongly encouraged,” it is no longer required for any staff or students. The reasons for this decision are cited as “our high vaccination rate, the continued decline of the omicron variant, the Governor’s recent executive orders and directives, and the recent Attorney General’s opinion,” according to the email.
The implementation of a vaccine requirement, and the masking mandate in the case of many, have been heavily debated. There have been many opinions published about how the vaccine mandate should not be allowed, such as Ryan T. Anderson in “Newsweek” who opposes the mandate.
There has been support garnered in favor of the vaccine mandate as well, many saying that it is necessary and not a violation of anything like Lawrence O. Gustin in “Scientific American”.
Mason staff, students working with the university and students living on campus all have opinions about the lifting of the mandate as well. The timing of the mandate lifting and the safety from COVID-19 are two prominent topics on campus.
Graduate Teaching Assistant, Rochelle Davidson Mhonde, who is also an instructor in the Communications department, had much to say about the implementation and resistance to the vaccine mandate, to begin with. Mhonde states that she does not oppose the vaccine mandate, but she does understand the trepidation about the vaccine from people who do oppose it.
“We need to have a good conversation about it,” Mhonde said on the tensions brought about by the vaccine requirement. “I understand [the mandate] and I understand why people are nervous,” she said.
Senior, Elias Tafwed, a Biology major and a Resident Advisor (RA) employed with Mason, and freshman, Lauren Real, a Human Development and Family Science major agreed that the mandate was not a violation of rights for the students, citing the other vaccine requirements that the university upholds.
According to Real, the mandate is not a violation of rights “because before COVID the school required vaccines and heck, even a pricey meal plan.”
Tafwed had a similar opinion, stating “I had no problem with making people get the vaccine because [Mason] made people upload documentation for their other vaccines.”
The timing of the requirement lifting was also a subject of conversation. According to Tafwed, Mason students are in a “really nice bubble already, which makes it easier to stop wearing masks.”
However, commuting students were still a concern. Both students also thought that when the restrictions are lifted there could be a slight rise in numbers due to them.
Safety on campus after the vaccine mandate is lifted is also a concern. Real stated, on whether this should impact safety from the virus on campus, “I don’t think so, but this answer might change based on how students and staff react.”
Real still felt safe on campus, stating that “As long as people aren’t coughing on me or anything,” she will be fine for the rest of the spring semester.