By Mark Walsh ‘20, Staff Writer
The first half of 2020 has already become one for the history books, with the Coronavirus pandemic reshaping even the most basic aspects of daily life across the globe. Among the most jarring and widespread of these societal changes has been the implementation of face mask policies by various governments, schools and businesses, including St. John Fisher College.
Many students, as well as average Americans, have heard over the past six months various different reasonings both for and against mask usage, at times making it difficult to stay informed with up to date information. This was especially true back at the onset of the pandemic, with public officials and health experts giving conflicting directions regarding the use and effectiveness of face coverings. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, for example, infamously tweeted out in late February that masks, “…are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus…”, only for the CDC to reverse course in early April, saying “Masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice…This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.” With these new and increasingly reliable medical insights, mask wearing by the general public is beginning to look like a no-brainer, but all of the initial flip-flopping from experts and government agencies alike makes it completely understandable for one to still have some unanswered questions.
This semester, St. John Fisher has put in place its Face Covering Policy, which requires the active usage of a mask by students, faculty and staff while on campus. Dr. Christine Boev, an associate professor for the School of Nursing and co-chair of Fishers Campus Reopening Task Force, further detailed these new policies, noting, “…the mask policy states that you must have your mask on any time you are inside, except if you’re in your office by yourself or if you’re eating. In other public spaces, the only time you can have your mask off is if you’re outside and you’re able to be six feet apart from other people.” Masks themselves are also strictly defined, both by Fisher and the CDC, as face coverings that go over both your nose and your mouth with two or more layers of breathable fabric. Other alternative coverings, such as face shields, do not offer the same kind of protection that a mask provides., with Dr. Boev explaining, “The purpose of a face shield is to protect virus from getting into your eyes…you can wear a face shield with a mask for more protection, but it doesn’t cover your mouth and your nose, like if you sneezed on me and I had a face shield on, virus could still get into my airway,.” Boev said.
Another thing to remember about masks is that the cloth masks ones need to be regularly swapped out and cleaned. Dr. Boev has provided some sound advice and recommendations regarding mask maintenance, including washing them daily “…with warm water, dish soap is fine [to use], hand soap is fine, and then just hang it up to dry, so if you have one ready to go and then one drying at all times, that’s probably a good system…”.
Additionally, Dr. Boev provided some mask advice for faculty and staff members, pointing out that some inherent inconveniences and difficulties can be alleviated by choosing the correct face covering for the occasion. “For faculty, when you’re lecturing, cloth can be difficult because it muffles your voice a little bit, and it’s heavier and it’s hotter. So I find, because my classes are three hours long, if I’m doing a three hour lecture, I’m probably not gonna wear a cloth mask, I’m gonna wear a disposable medical mask. Its more lightweight, you can hear me better and its more comfortable for long-term periods of time.”
Up to date information regarding face masks at Fisher can also be accessed by checking out the policies and procedures page on the college’s official website, and if one ever finds themselves forgetting or losing their mask while out and about, free extras are always available from the Wegmans School of Nursing.