GV students and VAT weigh in on winter masking


Courtesy / MLive

Payton Brazzil, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University’s GVSU Alert Level for COVID-19 remained at level two throughout the fall semester, indicating a “medium alert” level. As the winter semester approaches, GVSU students are beginning to question whether the mask mandate will remain in effect. 

The Virus Action Team (VAT) has yet to make a decision on upcoming regulations, according to VAT Associate Director of News Dottie Barnes. 

There is no way to predict right now whether face coverings will be required in January,” Barnes said. “Grand Valley’s face covering policy is tied to the GVSU Alert Level. Each alert level includes several key indicators, like community spread of the virus.”

Level two alert is a medium alert level and requires face coverings indoors unless eating or drinking. 

The VAT oversees the administration of COVID-19 related interventions and health initiatives, such as testing, vaccinations, the data dashboard and mandates for GVSU. The VAT said the GVSU community has been very compliant to the current mask mandate on campus. 

“We believe the mask requirement this semester has contributed to keeping our numbers low,” Barnes said. “The Grand Valley community has much lower numbers than the region or the state, and we want to continue with that trend.”

According to the Ottawa County COVID-19 data hub,  there was an average of 307.48 cases reported per day over the last week, Nov. 14-20, and the level of community transmission is “high.”

Although students have been wearing their masks on campus, the number of COVID-19 cases among the GVSU community are rising. In an email sent to the campus community on Nov. 18, the VAT said there has been an increase in cases both in the GVSU community and across the state of Michigan.

However, the email said cases reported at GVSU are still lower than they were a year ago, which they attribute to the 84% vaccination rate among GVSU students, faculty and staff. According to the GVSU COVID-19 Data Dashboard, there is a 21.71 average of daily case reports and there are 190 current active cases in the GVSU community as of Nov. 19. 

Based on these recent trends, some students like Hannah Hosfelt, said they feel the mask mandate should continue into the next semester in order to keep COVID-19 cases under control at GVSU. 

“I think we need to keep wearing masks on campus and in our classes,” Hosfelt said. “As much as I hate masks, they do protect us from COVID.”

Hosfelt said knowing people who have had the virus recently has impacted her point of view.

“Cases are going up right now, I even know a couple people who have it, so I don’t think we should stop wearing them any time soon,” Hosfelt said.  

GVSU student Grace Hartigan said that she thinks the mask mandate should be lifted at GVSU, as long as the majority of the community is vaccinated. According to the data dashboard, 83% of GVSU students are fully vaccinated. 

“I don’t have to wear one at the grocery store or restaurants because I’m vaccinated,” Hartigan said. “We shouldn’t have to wear masks at Grand Valley anymore, they’re kind of suffocating. Everyone should just get vaccinated so this can be over with.” 

While students have differing opinions on whether or not GVSU should wear masks next semester, the VAT will support anyone in the community who decides to wear masks, even if it is not required on campus, Barnes said. 

“I would still wear my mask even if we did not need to wear them,” Hosfelt said. “I work in healthcare, so I need to be aware of everyone’s safety. If the university said we don’t have to wear masks, I would still wear one to stay safe.” 

Due to the mask mandate corresponding with the current alert level, it is unknown whether the GVSU community will be wearing masks next semester.