A sign inside of Wildberries Marketplace in Arcata requiring customers to wear masks. | Photo by Walker B. True

Face coverings are vital to preventing spread of COVID-19

Humboldt State University taking necessary first step by requiring students and faculty to wear face coverings on campus.
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Humboldt State University taking necessary first step by requiring students and faculty to wear face coverings on campus.

Humboldt State University, after being closed since March, has reopened six months after the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. HSU was approved by the California State University system to offer “limited face-to-face courses this fall,” according to the HSU website. Considering the circumstances, HSU is taking the right precautions to keep both the students and faculty safe.

The university announced safety precautions on Aug. 4, which includes wearing face coverings with at least two layers of 100% cotton. These are required on campus at all times, both indoors and outdoors. HSU will provide students with face coverings at the campus Police Department, the first floor of Student and Business Services building, Jolly Giant Commons, College Creek Market and the Parking Kiosk.

Other precautions include practicing social distancing of six feet at all times when possible, refraining from gathering in groups, staying away from crowds, frequent washing of hands with soap and water and using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. The commitment to the precautions established by HSU represents a social responsibility that keeps us safe, as long as we follow them.

Although wearing masks is uncomfortable, research has shown that they prevent transmission of coronavirus when worn correctly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the spread of COVID-19 mainly results from settings where people are in close contact with each other, so the use of masks are especially effective in environments such as universities.

Different kinds of masks “block [the] virus to a different degree, but they all block the virus from getting in,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco, to The New York Times. No matter what type of face coverings people wear, it is still much more protective than not wearing one at all.

It’s also important to wear masks correctly, covering both one’s mouth and nose at all times. They need to be secured to the face without being too loose or too tight, making sure people are still able to breathe. They also need to be worn hands-free. Working at a grocery store during this pandemic, I’ve seen multiple people’s masks fall to their necks and they try to hold it up to their face, which leads to the spread of particles. Touching masks is unsanitary, so washing hands with soap and water is critical. The risk of spreading respiratory particles is much higher if the mask is not worn correctly.

Masks are only one of many protocols HSU has enforced. Students were instructed to follow safety protocols on Aug. 15 when over 200 of the 800 students moved into on-campus housing. All students were expected to self-quarantine for 14 days following their move-in day. Considering the risks of the spread of COVID-19, the university made the correct decision to reduce the number of students allowed to live in on-campus housing. It was also decided to make all rooms single occupancy.

Following health protocols is crucial, especially during a global pandemic. Wearing masks on campus has been mandated for all students and faculty members, and will be a major part in limiting the transmission of COVID-19. It will be especially important this fall when some students and faculty will be taking part in hybrid learning, which includes limited face-to-face contact.

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