No plans to change mask optional policy despite increase in COVID-19 cases

Written By Caitlyn Scott, Co-News Editor

With students entering into their third week of classes, the university has already seen a significant increase of COVID-19 cases on-campus, leading to many concerns for the health and safety of students and faculty. 

As of Sept. 11, 96 cumulative positive cases were identified, with 9 actively positive cases in isolation. Residential students make up 40 cumulative positive cases, with 38 commuter students and 18 employees being presumed cases, according to the campus’ COVID-19 dashboard located on Point Park’s official website. 

The increase in cases comes four months after the university formally announced that students would now have the option of wearing masks in classrooms and other areas of campus. 

“Masking became optional except for classrooms and elevators during the spring 2022 semester. At the end of May, we announced an entirely mask-optional policy,” Lou Corsaro, university marketing and public relations managing director said. “That policy was included in the updated campus operations guide we sent to all students prior to the start of the semester.”

As stated within the university’s “Operation Manual for Returning to Campus,” those who test positive for COVID-19, or believe that they are experiencing symptoms, are encouraged to stay home and “notify the Student Health Center for instructions regarding quarantine and testing,” regardless of vaccination status. 

Many procedures regarding quarantine and isolation have since remained in place for students who reside on-campus, with the university reserving the nineteenth floor of Lawrence Hall for COVID-19 isolation. 

For commuter students and faculty members, the operations manual states that those diagnosed with COVID-19 “will need to isolate in their off-campus location for at least five days” and should notify the Student Center of any close contacts.  

With this, students have expressed concerns over the increase of cases within only three weeks of being back in-person. 

“I am surprised that there are already so many COVID-19 cases this semester, even though it just started less than two weeks ago,” Debbie Wason, a sophomore dance major, said. “I had no idea there were even any cases yet, but there seems to be quite a concerning amount. This is especially concerning to me as a dance major because this year the department took away the ability to zoom into dance class online if you must isolate because of COVID. Now, if you have to isolate yourself, you just have to miss class altogether.”

Upon being asked about the current state of the masks on-campus, Student Government Association (SGA) President Kendra Summers wrote in a statement to The Globe that although the increase in cases are alarming, there is no current plan to negotiate with the administration on reversing the masking policy instituted for this school year. 

“The results of a survey we published last year pointed towards the student body wanting to return to a mask-optional campus rather than a mask-enforced one,” Summers wrote in a statement on behalf of SGA. “As a voice for the student body, we passed this information along to administration without SGA opinion involved. From there, the student body was given the optional-mask policy we currently have.”

According to Summers, student government has received no complaints from students about the current masking policy.

SGA encourages students amid rising cases, to take precautions and to continue to listen to health recommendations from local and national health officials. 

“SGA is disheartened and concerned regarding the rising number of COVID cases reported on the dashboard,” Summers wrote. “Above all, SGA is and will always be committed to the health and safety of students both on and off campus. Immediately following the beginning of the pandemic, SGA encouraged and expected the student body to follow the published guidelines of the CDC until given otherwise instruction.”