Updated: Sep 16, 2022
By Branden LaCroix
Asst. News Editor
FSU’s COVID-19 Guidelines for Academic Year 2022-23 relax the masking mandate and surveillance testing for students, faculty, and staff.
In an email sent Aug. 24, President Nancy Niemi laid out the changes made to the University’s COVID-19 protocols, which includes the removal of the campus-wide mask mandate and asymptomatic surveillance testing of students, staff, and faculty.
Ilene Hofrenning, director of the Health Center, said the University’s COVID-19 guidelines were changed based on the CDC’s data and its recommendations and because of the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots.
“Because of the vaccines, fewer people are getting really sick,” she said. “There’s fewer people with serious illness, hospitalizations, and death.”
She added the “other half” of the guideline changes is “trying to get life back to normal - trying to get back to normal university life.”
According to the new guidelines, while masking is no longer required in most spaces, students who wish to continue masking can do so, and faculty who want masking to continue in their classes can require their students to wear one.
Certain facilities on campus, such as the Counseling Center, Health and Wellness Center, and Athletic Training Services also require guests to wear masks.
The University’s vaccine mandate is still in place for students, staff, and faculty unless they have a medical or religious exemption.
Hofrenning said she has heard some concerns over the new mask guidelines, but added most “people are happy with this.
“For instance, a professor can decide, ‘I want people in my class to wear a mask.’ And they of course will be required to wear a mask as well. Or other professors can say, ‘You know, it's not required in my class - you can wear one if you'd like,’ and students seem to be OK with that. And it seems like most professors are OK with that as well,” she said.
Free rapid-antigen tests are available at the Health and Wellness Center to all students. Self-administered PCR tests are also available, but are limited in supply.
According to the guidelines, students displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 are advised to wear a mask and test as soon as possible. If the test is negative, students are to continue masking and test again after 48 hours.
Hoffrening said testing and masking even with mild symptoms is important because, even if someone initially tests negative, “there's still a good chance you have COVID - you just don't have enough of the virus to show up on the test.”
If a student’s test returns positive, the student must inform the Health Center by email or phone and the Office of the Dean of Students, who will notify the student’s professors.
Because contact tracing is no longer performed, students who test positive are required to notify anyone they have been in close contact with.
The University follows the CDC’s guidelines on isolation for people who test positive for COVID-19. The CDC recommends isolating for five days, instead of the previous 10 days.
According to the CDC, students may end isolation after five days if they have not had a high fever for 24 hours, but suggests wearing a mask through day 10.
The full CDC isolation guidelines can be accessed at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/isolation.html.
During previous semesters, Linsley Hall was a designated quarantine area for students infected with COVID-19. Hofrenning said Linsley Hall was planned to be a designated isolation space for students, but the building currently has “facilities issues” and is not in use.
She said, “What we did, what we've always done, and will continue to do is encourage people to go home if they can't or isolate off campus.” She added in the event a student cannot isolate off campus, “We will accommodate whoever needs to be isolated to make sure that they have a safe and appropriate place to isolate.”
Although the University has a vaccine and booster mandate in place, there is no requirement to get the newest booster, but Hofrenning said she is encouraging people to get it as it will protect against BA.5, the newest strain of the COVID-19 virus.
Hofrenning said there will be an on-campus booster clinic sometime in October, but a specific date has not been set yet.
Marysa Kenney, a freshman, said she had to mask while she was in high school and said, “It’s good to see that we’re kind of moving forward.”
She said she is not concerned with catching or spreading COVID-19, but added, “It’s still a thing and I think people should just be careful and cautious, especially with older people who can get sick easily.”
Emily Hanson, a junior early childhood education major, said she is “OK” with lifting the mask mandate, but still worries about spreading COVID-19. “I work with kids and I have grandparents who I worry about.”
She added, “I think we should possibly be testing the same just to keep a record of it and track it.”
Judea Blake, a junior psychology major, said, “It’s easier to live on campus because we don’t have to get tested every week or every two weeks.”
She said, “I think people just need to keep their hygiene up - keep washing your hands - stuff like that.”
Billy Ginepra, a sophomore sociology major, said he feels “comfortable getting back to how we were before - I’ve seen everybody’s faces again.”
He said he is only concerned “once in a while” about catching or spreading COVID-19. “Like, if someone’s sick around me, I’ll take consideration of it and keep my distance, but for the most part, I think the vaccinations are doing good.”
However, he added, “You have to remind yourself that it exists. You still have to be aware of what you touch and who you’re in contact with.”
Hofrenning said anyone with questions about the University’s new guidelines should email or call the Health Center at 508-626-4900.
She said, “If anybody has any kind of cold or any kind of simple scratchy throat, or they think it's allergies, anything, they should test to see if they have COVID.
“We’re having to live with COVID and it’s still very transmissible,” she said.