Journey Ahead Update: Where to Wear a Mask, and Where They Are Optional
When our revised Journey Ahead protocols were announced on Monday, August 9, it became clear that some understandably have misunderstood or misinterpreted the mask requirement. The decision to implement a limited mask policy was made after a considerable amount of thought and prayer, based on relevant data, and undertaken in a genuine effort to minimize its impact on the campus environment. The ultimate goal remains: keeping our campus community healthy and safe. There is nothing arbitrary about our policy, nor is it politically or socially motivated.
Where Masks Are Optional
Please note this is not necessarily a complete list. Rather, it is a list of common-use areas where masks are optional. A visual overview of the policy is available here. We’ve also published a video showing examples of where masks are required and where they are not. It’s available here.
- Welcome Week events
- Residence Halls
- In hallways traveling to and from class
- Thrift Library
- Student Center (including Culinary Center; the Chik-Fil-A and Chronicles Cafe lines; AU Outfitters, etc.)
- Eno Village
- Alumni Lawn
- Parking lots
- White Swings
- Books and Beans
- Post Office
- AU Outfitters
Where Masks Are Required
Our mask requirement applies only to the areas listed below. For any other environment, masks are optional (see above.)
- Classes, labs and other scheduled and mandatory academic instruction settings
- Trojan Transit
- Indoor events and/or activities of 75 people or more if attendance at that event or activity is mandatory
Let’s more clearly examine that third point. Rather than attempting to explain the variables, let’s apply them by using two examples.
Example #1: Campus Worship. Campus Worship is an indoor event and/or activity. There are 75 people or more who attend each service. As you know, students must attend a certain number each semester to satisfy the Journey Credit program requirement for graduation; attendance is mandatory. In short, each of the variables apply to Campus Worship. Therefore, masks are required during Campus Worship, specifically so that protections exist for those who may be concerned for their own health but cannot choose to leave the environment in which they have a personal concern.
Example #2: Playing ping pong in the Student Center. Playing ping pong in the Student Center is an indoor event and/or activity. However, 75 or more people cannot play ping pong at the same time. And you do not have to play ping pong, which is an entirely optional activity. One can decide for oneself whether such an environment is safe for them. In other words, if an individual is concerned about their personal safety during an optional activity or environment, they can choose to go elsewhere. To return to our example, given the dynamics explained above, masks are not required while playing ping pong in the Student Center.
If you are a visual person, the flowchart available here might be helpful. While not exhaustive, it will guide you in deciding whether or not you are required to wear a mask:
As you can see, the scope of our policy is very limited. It requires masks in only a few circumstances. For most daily activities, masks remain optional.
How the Policy was Established
To establish our limited mask policy, we considered three key factors that may or may not exist in an indoor space, presented here as a series of questions:
- Is attendance required? In other words, do you have to be in a given space at a given time? Or is attendance optional? Do I have free choice to make a decision about attending? Can I decide, based on my own personal concerns and needs, whether this is an environment in which I am comfortable?
- If attendance is required, while in the space can you consistently keep three feet away from others?
- If attendance is required, and three feet of physical distance is not possible or guaranteed, will you have to be in the space for longer than 15 minutes?
In answering those questions, we identified the three environments in which masks are required. Again, those include scheduled learning environments (classes, labs, etc.), as well as planned, organized, and mandatory events and activities. (While Trojan Transit is an optional mode of transportation, given its widespread use and the fact that vans are small, enclosed spaces, requiring masks is a prudent measure.)
Why Change the Policy Now?
The timing of this change is unfortunate, but the decision to do so was not arbitrary nor was it undertaken lightly. Significant factors were at play, and included only the following:
- our desire to enable our campus community to operate as normal as possible and in the least inconvenient manner available to us;
- COVID cases in the United States have increased tenfold since late June;
- South Carolina COVID hospitalizations are rising at a rate of 175%, ranking our state second nationally;
- significant increases in cases, hospitalizations, and patients assigned to ICU because of COVID within the Anderson area, including a significant jump from just two weeks ago, (also, the percentage of younger people, 50 and under, has almost doubled);
- the transmissibility of the Delta variant, which is 40% more infectious than earlier variants; and
- the number of students without either vaccine-induced immunity or natural immunity (from a past COVID-19 confirmed case) being less than 80%, which is itself below the minimum threshold for herd immunity related to the Delta variant (80-89% is the target.)
Thank you for taking the time to read this message, and for your willingness to cooperate with Anderson University during the Journey Ahead.