Office of Student Affairs provide students with KN-95 masks after Student Government request

SGA concerned after reports of students breaking mask protocols

Written By Caitlyn Scott, Co-News Editor

On January 31, Dean of Student Life Michael Gieseke sent an email to inform students on the availability of KN-95 masks, after an initial request was placed by the Student Government Association (SGA).

“Representatives of SGA asked if we could provide KN-95 masks to those students who may not be able to get them on their own. So, we purchased the KN-95 masks,” Gieseke said. “We ordered what they asked for.”

The Student Government Association is the student-run and elected governing body of Point Park. The organization had reached out to Dean Paylo, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, to request the order and distribution of KN-95 masks to students.

“SGA reached out to Dean Paylo to ask if it would be possible for Student Affairs to purchase some for the University, even though the government was planning to offer ones for free to those who want them,” Marketing and Public Relations Managing Director Lou Corsaro said on Paylo’s behalf. “An order was immediately made to ensure that we would have some on hand, as per the SGA’s request.”

“We didn’t consult with the SGA or discuss the types of masks that should be used or work with them on securing a vendor. The University just went ahead and ordered the masks from a preferred vendor when the request was made,” Corsaro said.

The KN-95 masks, which were purchased through UPMC, were requested by SGA since students had reported seeing some of their peers no longer following mask wearing procedures on campus.

“SGA made the decision to consult with the Office of Student Affairs about KN-95 masks, when it was brought to the attention of SGA that students were not wearing masks on campus,” sophomore political science major and SGA Senator Trevor FitzSimmons said. “Therefore, SGA engaged in discussions with Student Affairs and other university officials to remedy this issue. It is my understanding that during these talks the topic of KN-95 masks came up, and it is also my understanding that after further discussion with university officials the decision was made to purchase and distribute KN-95 masks to students.”

FitzSimmons said that the process for the request had begun since the beginning of the spring semester, with the choice and price of masks being deliberated for several weeks.

“SGA requested the KN-95 masks because the recommendation from the CDC is that the KN-95 masks are the preferred masks to wear to protect oneself from the virus. I cannot speak on the price difference of the KN-95 compared to the N-95; however, if the N-95 were more expensive than the KN-95, I would infer that the university would opt to purchase the less expensive mask given that the difference between the KN-95 and the N-95 are not too significant and offer similar protection,” FitzSimmons said.

The purchase of the KN-95 masks comes less than a month after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the usage of either an N95 or KN-95 mask for the best protection against COVID-19.

“Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health] respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection.” the CDC said on their official website.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and the start of mask mandates in 2020, people had been advised by health officials to avoid KN-95 and N-95 masks, and to instead opt for cloth masks due to a shortage in supply of KN-95 and N-95 masks that were needed by health workers. With the masks now becoming more readily available, people are now encouraged to opt for KN-95 or N95 masks to ensure safety from COVID-19.

Both N95 and KN-95 masks have proven to be at least 95% effective with the only difference between them being that the KN-95 masks are manufactured within China and are made to meet their standards, according to multiple outlets.

Although the KN-95 masks are proven effective and are now available to students on campus, Gieseke said that at this time, there is no plan to provide all faculty and staff with masks.

“The Office of Student Affairs is only providing masks to the students. We are not providing masks for faculty and staff,” Gieseke said. “It would be up to Physical Plant and Human Resources to determine if faculty and staff should also be provided with the KN-95 masks.”

Despite not being available to faculty and staff, FitzSimmons said that SGA could possibly help faculty and staff remain safe from the virus in different ways.

“SGA is continually working with the university to distribute these masks to the student body for use; however, if SGA wants to help combat the virus perhaps we should also focus on requiring faculty and staff at Point Park to be vaccinated, as well as provide faculty and staff with the masks they need to protect everyone against the virus,” FtizSimmons said.

Students who would like to receive a KN-95 mask will need to stop by the Student Office of Student Life located on the seventh floor of the Student Center. Currently, the office is providing one mask at a time, although students are welcome to come back at a later time to receive another mask.