by Crystal Duc
In the midsts of the recent nationwide increase of new coronavirus cases ushered in by the more contagious Delta variant, Florida now leads the nation with the most COVID-19 infections. With the start of the upcoming school year looming on the horizon, Pensacola State College students, employees, and other Northwest Florida residents face uncertainty regarding the possible reinstatement of a nationwide mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
In recent months as vaccination rates rose across the nation and COVID-19 cases saw a decline, many state and local mask mandates were significantly altered for the first time since April 2020.
Although Pensacola’s City Council has encouraged its residents and visitors to follow guidance from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help stop the spread of COVID-19, Pensacola’s mask ordinance 15-20 that required face coverings be worn inside businesses within the city limits of Pensacola, expired on April 22, 2021.
Many vaccinated Northwest Florida residents took a maskless sigh of relief following the May 13 mask mandate update by the CDC, which stated that although citizens should still adhere to their state and local mask regulations, it was safe in most situations for vaccinated individuals not to wear masks or practice social distancing.
Regardless of whether you are pro-mask or anti-mask, the CDC’s recent May 13 mask mandate policies, followed by the mask regulations set by state and local officials across the U.S, have been met with a wave of mixed emotions and criticism.
While some individuals believe that mask mandates are unconstitutional because they feel it should be a person’s right to choose whether to wear a mask or not, others have been reluctant to toss aside the one seemingly reliable shield they believe has protected them against contracting COVID-19’s life-threatening symptoms.
Some students and PSC employees might feel apprehensive about attending in-person classes this fall semester; however, everyone should have some peace of mind knowing that although PSC will not require face coverings, they strongly encourage that all students, faculty, and staff wear face coverings while indoors regardless if they are vaccinated or not.
PSC highly recommends that any unvaccinated students and employees get vaccinated before the start of this coming fall semester. Excused absences for COVID-19 will not be guaranteed, and PSC will view any COVID-19 related absences the same as any other illness-related absences and recommends that students speak with their instructors regarding the possibility of making up missed assignments.
With Florida now leading the nation’s surge of COVID-19 Delta variant infections, many health professionals and Florida residents are questioning if the CDC was rash in its recent decision to lessen mask regulations. This action has allowed state governors to set mask guidelines on their own accord while leaving unvaccinated individuals more susceptible to the virus and will become problematic if the need arises to reinstate a nationwide mask mandate.
Whether or not the residents of Florida stand on the cusp of a nationwide reinstatement of new mask mandates or perhaps even a nationwide vaccination mandate from the CDC remains to be seen; however, if masking up is something that we can all do to aid in our world’s ongoing battle to end this vile pandemic, count me in.