On Thursday, Feb. 17, NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu announced the lifting of the mask requirement on all NMSU campuses. This announcement came after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the same day that the indoor mask mandate had been lifted due to the decrease in hospitalizations and the various treatment options available against the COVID-19 virus.
According to the NMDOH COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard, 75.6% of New Mexicans have received at least one dose of a vaccine as of Feb. 18.
Following New Mexico’s newly updated public health order, masks are now optional inside all NMSU buildings and facilities. This change includes the reinstatement of concession sales for indoor sporting events.
All other COVID-19 safe practices will remain the same. Social distancing is still required as well as masks for food service workers.
NMSU COVID-19 project manager Jon Webster said this protocol is enforced out of an abundance of caution. “We’re gonna continue to keep the same practices in place; in particular, in the eating areas,” Webster said.
Now that the mask mandate is lifted on campus, junior student Sharik De La Garza said she felt the university could have given the situation more thought to further ensure everyone’s safety.
“I feel it was too quick and out of nowhere. Giving an announcement about transitioning little by little feels safer since there are new variations of COVID arising,” De La Garza said.
Another student, William Cummings, said he was surprised to hear how willing the university was to “drop the mask mandate” after repeated insinuation of the effectiveness of masks and vaccinations. “It’s really the question of like ‘why now?’ What makes now better than a few days ago?” Cummings said.
Cummings also said, “I feel like they have stuck to their guns on being ‘as safe as possible’ … so I found it surprising because not only did NMSU make it so important to not only be vaxxed and follow mask rules [and] COVID protocols, but also mapped out the penalty of not following said protocols.”
He expressed his uncertainty regarding the situation and said he believes there will be a rift created between people exercising the different mask options. He further explained that not having a mask mandate is fine, but all the time spent creating boundaries to the COVID-19 issue now feels like a waste of time.
Before the lifting of masks indoors, Chancellor Arvizu shared an announcement on Jan. 31 regarding a ban on concession stand sales during indoor sporting events.
In response to this previous three-week ban, De La Garza said she believes it was a safe choice. “I understand why they chose to make that move and why people complained, but at the end of the day it was for others’ safety,” De La Garza said.
Webster said he recognized everyone was unhappy with the lack of concessions at the Pan American Center, but knew it was the lighter of two approaches that they were asked to consider. “It could have been no fans at all, so we felt like this was the better approach, but we are holding true to what we said, which was as soon as the mask mandate is lifted, we will reinstate concessions immediately,” Webster said.
Despite the uncertainty floating in the air regarding the abrupt change, Webster said he hopes people understand wearing a mask is now a choice, and whether someone decides to wear one or not, they should be free of discrimination.
“I just think that we all have to be understanding of each other and kind to each other right now with such a sudden change, because none of us had any indication this was coming,” Webster said.