Mask mandate reinstated on campus, then removed days later

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Kyle Putt / The Bucknellian

Editor’s note: This story was updated on  Sept. 23 to include that the mask mandate was lifted on Sept. 22. 

The campus received an email from Gregg Rokavec, director of Safety & Risk Management, on Sept. 19 announcing that masks would be required in all indoor campus spaces until further notice, but the mandate was then removed on Sept. 22 — just three days later.

Bucknell’s COVID-19 and masking protocol is determined by the Center of Disease Control’s risk assessment of Union County, which was deemed to be high risk at the time. 

While Bucknell no longer provides a dashboard of cases on campus, the CDC still tracks the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Union County.

As Bucknell students entered the new semester, masks were not required on campus because transmission rates were considered to be medium. Professors were still allowed to require masks as per personal preference and masks are still required at Bucknell Student Health, regardless of the transmission rates.

The last time the campus experienced a mask mandate was on June 13 this past summer, which was quickly lifted three days later, as risk levels lowered. 

The accessibility to COVID-19 testing resources has greatly increased since the beginning of the pandemic. In conjunction with the reinstatement of the mask mandate, students were emailed on Sept. 20 that antigen tests would now be available in a vending machine located on the ground floor of the Elaine Langone Center, across from the Bison. 

Students are able to receive two test kits per week by swiping their BU-ID. 

Despite the reinstatement of the mask mandate, there were still concerns from some students and student organizations about whether or not these protocols are enough to ensure student safety. In response, students from the Social Justice Residential College have begun a petition to garner support from others, in demand of a stronger response. 

The main points of the petition are concerns about the lack of tracking of campus cases, and less strict protocol for students who test positive. 

In comparison to previous semesters during the pandemic, Bucknell is no longer providing or requiring off-campus isolation housing — resulting in students being trusted to isolate on their own terms.

This could be especially difficult for first-year students who commonly have a roommate, are bound to a meal plan at Bostwick Cafeteria and do not have a car on campus. The description of the petition includes anonymous quotes from students who have had some of these complicated experiences after testing positive. 

“Due to the lack of support from Bucknell I endangered myself and those around me,” one read, with the initials MAW attached. “I had to be around others in my dorm, bathrooms, and the cafeteria, potentially spreading [COVID] to those around me. I had extreme fatigue, headaches, nausea, and poor appetite but I still had to walk to the cafeteria to get food and over exert myself doing work in order to not fall behind.” 

A writer with the initials TC wrote they wished the Dashboard was still operating so they could have better protected themselves. 

Another writer, ML, wrote “I didn’t like that they were making me stay in my room with the possibility of infecting my roommate.” 

The Bucknellian reached out to Ella Ulrich ’26, creator of the petition, for a statement but did not receive an answer in time for publication.

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