Students share thoughts on new COVID-19 mask mandates.

The University of Rhode Island’s recent mask mandate has led to some debate amongst the community. Photo contributed by Olivia Prue.

As students return to campus for the fall semester, the University of Rhode Island has announced that all community members, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear a mask on campus for the time being.

This most recent mask mandate, announced on Aug. 12, comes after the May 24 change of COVID-19 regulations that no longer required fully vaccinated community members to wear face coverings on campus. 

The changes came with the rise of the delta variant and the state of Rhode Island’s announcement that all individuals would be required to wear masks inside of government buildings.

Community members have expressed mixed reactions to both the mask and vaccine mandates since they were announced. Some students have expressed anger over the mandates, while others have said the mandates are necessary for the safety of the community at large.

Laura Barringer, a sophomore innovation & entrepreneurship, public relations and Spanish triple major, is one of the students who has disagreed with the mandates.

“My opinion on the mask mandate for vaccinated students is simply this: it should not exist,” Barringer said. “The University decided to follow the state mandate on wearing facial coverings indoors; however the state of Rhode Island does not require its citizens to be vaccinated.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, URI has adhered largely to state guidelines as they enforced safety regulations. While the University is required to follow both state and federal laws and regulations, it is additionally allowed to enforce its own rules for community members.

Olivia Prue, a sophomore nursing major, feels that she and other students are disappointed to return to masks after the idea of a normal semester. But, she also emphasized that a mask mandate will be for the “greater good” to counteract the spread of the delta variant.

“Even though we’re all vaccinated, I still think [masks] are important because I have had friends who were vaccinated and still got sick,” Prue said. “Even if it’s something we don’t want, it’s necessary.”

She is hoping for COVID-19 to diminish soon, so the University and students can return to a sense of normalcy. 

Kendall Bousquet, a junior creative writing and graphic design major, said that the only ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are vaccines and masks. Because of that she believes that everyone should be wearing masks on campus.

“There’s proof that masks help stop the spread of COVID. I want to keep myself so safe, I don’t want COVID in any way,” Bousquet said. “People don’t know the long term effects of COVID. You wear [masks] for people who can’t get the vaccine. You’re wearing it for other people, not just yourself. If someone tells you to wear it, they’re telling you to wear it for a reason. If health care workers are [wearing] it 24/7 just to keep people alive, we can suck it up and try to end this together.”  Masks will be required on campus for the foreseeable future, but the University has said they will continue to monitor the pandemic’s impact on campus and throughout the state for any changes.