Univ. updates mask policy, gaiters no longer acceptable

February 19, 2021

The university has implemented a new mask policy to limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus with the start of spring 2021, according to an email sent by Senior Vice President for Communications, Marketing and External Relations Dan Kim on Feb. 11. The university plans to enforce the new policy in addition to previous guidelines used in the fall, including the contact tracing program, community testing and the campus passport program, according to the email. 

Face coverings were a requirement for all community members during the fall 2020 semester. The new mask policy no longer accepts bandanas, scarves, neck gaiters or any equivalent face covering as acceptable, according to the university’s masks page. The university also does not accept face coverings with valves as an appropriate face covering, and face shields alone cannot be used, according to the page. 

Due to new public health reports stating that double masks and masks with filters are better against fighting variants of the COVID-19 virus, the university has advised that community members consider upgrading from a singular surgical mask or cloth mask to double layered masks, according to the page. This could help lower the transmission rate of the variants, according to the page, though it is not a requirement for community members to wear double masks.

The university has continued its testing program, which tests community members every 84 hours. The university, in collaboration with the Broad Institute, as of publishing time has administered 117,850 tests since the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester, according to the university’s COVID-19 Dashboard. According to the university’s COVID-19 Testing page, community member’s compliance to the testing program “is a crucial part of our campus’ health and safety operations.”   

The Broad Institute has partnered with higher education institutions to provide tests to college communities at $25 per test, according to the Broad Institute’s website. In comparison, select private labs charge $100 to $150 per test, according to the Broad Institute. The Broad Institute is partnered with over 100 schools and higher education institutions in the Northeast, according to their website. With the amount of tests administered by the Broad Institute, it is estimated that the university has spent over $2.9 million on testing with a fee of $25 per test.  

In addition to the testing program, the university has also maintained its contact tracing team, the Brandeis Community Tracing Program (BCTP), to help identify and contain outbreaks of the COVID-19 pandemic within the Brandeis community, according to a BrandeisNow article. If a person tests positive, they are then interviewed by the university’s contact tracers to identify individuals who they have been in close contact with, according to the article. Brandeis contact tracers also alert close contacts who are not within the Brandeis community through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, according to the article. 

Indoor dining was re-established in Usdan and Sherman dining halls, operating at a limited capacity, according to an email sent by Kim on Feb. 17. Indoor dining resumed after COVID-19 rates stabilized on campus, according to the email; the restrictions are similar to the conditions imposed during the fall 2020 semester. Safety measures include one-way traffic as marked by stickers on the floor and markers used to indicate whether tables and chairs have been disinfected after use, according to the email.

Campus regulations are subject to change throughout the semester in accordance with Massachusetts state protocol, Kim wrote in the email.

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