A New Brunswick university will continue its campus mask mandate this fall.
Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., says masks will continue to be mandatory inside buildings, but won’t be required outside.
In a letter to students and staff, the university says exceptions to wearing a mask inside will include faculty who are teaching, students who are making a presentation, anyone sitting in the library or designated study space, as well as anyone participating in sports, fitness, or arts performances.
In an interview Thursday, Mount Allison president and vice-chancellor Jean-Paul Boudreau said the “low risk, high reward” decision was an easy one to make.
“This was the right call for our university, our community,” said Boudreau. “We had a very strong Mount Allison-Sackville bubble as we referred to it as. And that was really a strong commitment from our community, our faculty, our staff, and our students to be safe.”
“We appreciate that of course cases are increasing in New Brunswick and elsewhere. We know that the BA.5 variant is of concern not just in our community but beyond our borders.”
The University of New Brunswick, St. Thomas University, and Université de Moncton haven’t announced what, if any, masking policies may be in place this fall.
Mount Allison announced it would also be reaching out to new students to ask for their vaccination status, but noted the sharing of that information would be voluntary.
Mount Allison was the first university in the Maritimes to announce a campus-wide vaccination policy last summer. Post-secondary institutions around the region later implemented similar vaccination policies.
MANDATES AND DISCRETION
New Brunswick’s indoor masking policy came to an end in March.
Some events and organizations — including post-secondary institutions — kept the masking requirement in place.
Indoor events scheduled at next month’s Fredericton Pride will have masking requirements.
Fredericton Pride board member Brianna Matchett said chronically ill and immunocompromised individuals haven’t been able to participate in many other gatherings since the provincial mask mandate was lifted.
“I think people are appreciative of the fact there’s going to be spaces in the city where people, who’ve been excluded from a lot of events recently, will have a place to go,” said Matchett.
Medical grade air purifiers will also be used at Fredericton Pride’s indoor events. KN-95 masks will be provided at no cost for events happening indoors and outdoors, and areas will be cordoned off at outdoor events where masking will be required.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Anna Banerji said COVID-19 transmission risks were lower outside, but not impossible particularly in crowded situations.
“And I think that’s where people use their discretion,” said Banerji, in an interview Thursday with CTV’s Your Morning.
The increase this summer in COVID-19 cases should put masking policies back on the table for some environments, according to Banerji.
“We thought that this summer that COVID would really go down, that we wouldn’t have another peak. But things are changing,” said Banerji. “Many people I know are getting COVID again or for the first time, so the whole environment is changing. A lot of people haven’t had their boosters in a long time.”
Banerji said masking mandates for certain crowded indoor situations, like public transportation, should be considered.
“Or certain places where you had vulnerable people, it would make sense to have mask mandates,” said Banerji. “I’m not saying in general, but I think where there are vulnerabilities.”