Masks no longer recommended on campus under CDC guidelines; students feel left in the dark

Masks+no+longer+recommended+on+campus+under+CDC+guidelines%3B+students+feel+left+in+the+dark

When students Jose Lucero and Carla Irigoyen-Amparan arrived at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) the morning of March 7, they weren’t aware that UTEP President Heather Wilson had sent an email to all students the night before with an update from the CDC regarding COVID-19 guidelines.

Then, as they sat in UTEP’s Union building, they checked their phones and read Wilson’s email.

In the evening of Sunday, March 6, 2022,  Wilson announced in an email to students that under Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, it is no longer recommended that students in El Paso wear masks on campus following an announcement made February 25. 

The CDC announcement advised that areas that are considered low or medium risk may relax their mask guidance according to their community COVID-19 level, COVID-19 contact and take into consideration any underlying health risk and physician recommendations.

As of Sunday evening, El Paso had a little over 2,000 positive COVID-19 cases and is considered medium risk under CDC measures. El Paso has seen a decline in positive COVID-19 rates since the start of the new year.

This is all welcome news as we approach spring break and the second half of the semester. It will mean an increasing number of opportunities for in-person activities on campus,” Wilson wrote.

Wilson further provided that students:

“who are at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions… Stay up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines…Get tested if you have symptoms…may choose to wear a mask at any time… People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.”

Though its no longer recommended by the CDC, Lucero said he thinks masks should be required on campus. 

“A lot of people don’t wear masks and get too close,” Lucero said. 

He’s worried that he will catch COVID and have to miss class, something he said, one of his professors is very strict about.

“He prefers that everybody is close together,” Lucero said. “(The class) is in the (Union) Cinema.”

Lucero has already had a student in his class test positive, but he knows that even if he came in contact with them he can’t risk missing class. He said one of his professors would not be okay with him missing class.

“He’s a very complicated teacher,” Lucero said.

Though, for some students, COVID-19 has weighed less and less on students’ minds at UTEP, but for students like Lucero, they still feel left in the dark about what to do if their classmate tests positive for COVID-19.

No further guidance was given to students who test positive and risk missing class and possibly coming in contact with classmates who face the same risk besides the suggestion to “wear a mask”.

Wilson cited the CDC measure as a reasoning behind UTEP’s COVID-19 guidance update and stated that UTEP COVID-19 testing sites will see reduced hours, beginning Monday, March 7.

The following information was stated in Wilson’s email:

On-campus walk-up testing for employees and students at the former Honors House, behind the Academic Advising Center, will be available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The city’s COVID-19 mega testing site at 3333 N. Mesa will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. This public site includes two dedicated priority lanes for Miners and their household members.

By Brandy Ruiz

Featured image by Jasmin Campoya

Story updated at 9:45 a.m., March 7 to include student opinions and to update an inaccurate headline. The original headline was that UTEP no longer requires masks on campus under CDC guidelines. UTEP had never required masks on campus. This was corrected to state that masks were no longer recommended on campus under CDC guidelines.