King’s and Dalhousie bring back mask mandates

Breaking: King’s extends mask mandates in gym, chapel, library, meal hall, Wardroom until end of fall term. More to come.

To reduce the risk of new COVID-19 variants spreading across their schools, both Dalhousie and King’s are requiring students to wear masks as they return to their studies. 

On August 10th, Sarah Clift, Vice President of King’s, released a statement outlining the school’s new guidelines for the 2022 school year. 

In the release, Clift stated that King’s will “require three-ply masks in all indoor common spaces on the King’s campus.” 

The masking requirement began on August 25th, when early arrival students came to campus, and will remain until the end of term.

The day after Clift’s release, Dalhousie sent out a memo outlining their own COVID-19 guidelines. 

The author of the memo is Frank Harvey, Provost and Vice-President Academic, who stated that “masks will be required in all indoor classrooms and instructional spaces, supported by the high-quality ventilation standards set throughout the pandemic.”

Both schools are reinstating indoor mask guidelines but while Dalhousie is focusing on students in classrooms, King’s is instead focusing on leisure spaces, like residences. 

Despite efforts from King’s and Dalhousie to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the virus is still highly contagious and both universities have resources in case people feel sick. 

King’s Central Safety Plan explains that everyone needs to self-isolate if they test positive or experience symptoms. 

The administration promises privacy and support in their FAQ: “Community-wide communications will not go out unless directed by Public Health…We will take care of you—bring you meals, offer check-ins, provide you access to mental and physical health supports.” 

Dalhousie also mandates self-isolation for students who test positive, along with practicing social distancing and proper hygiene for everyone else. They also have multiple phone numbers available to contact if students have any health-related inquiries or travel-related inquiries. 

Alex Birsel, a fourth-year King’s student, supports the administration’s guidelines but believes that they could be less restrictive. 

“I am somewhere in the middle,” Birsel said. “I think that the guidelines surrounding where and what type of masks should remain but I think wearing them should be optional.”

After spending the summer in Digby, where “no one wore masks or was required to wear masks,” he will have to adjust to being masked on campus. 

Nevertheless, Birsel thinks King’s and Dalhousie have done decent jobs, praising the “structure of the guidelines.” 

Some students, like Birsel, spent their summers outside of Halifax, where they would be under different guidelines, if any. King’s administration says all students should familiarize themselves with the new protocols to make sure everyone on campus is safe. 

Many of these guidelines and procedures that both Dalhousie and King’s follow come from the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA). 

The NSHA outlines all potential symptoms for COVID-19 on their website; they recommend isolation even if someone does not test positive and only displays said symptoms. 

“Testing is available for all Nova Scotians who have symptoms,” says the NSHA website, “most Nova Scotians qualify for rapid antigen testing, while those at increased risk of severe illness and certain occupations also qualify for PCR testing.” 

The King’s administration follows the NSHA guidelines and wishes its community to do the same. 

As of August 18th, Nova Scotia reported 1,445 positive PCR tests: the highest of all the Atlantic provinces. The province called on its citizens to act in accordance with the requirements of masking, self-isolation, and vaccination to reduce its case numbers.

The student community has supported the universities by adhering to their COVID-19 restrictions throughout the pandemic. While the virus has diminished significantly since 2020, the King’s administration asks its community to stay vigilant and follow its guidelines. 

Sarah Clift ends her statement with this call to action: “Throughout the pandemic, considerable collective and individual efforts have been made in the name of community health and safety. Let’s continue to look out for each other.”

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