Union College bans cloth masks amid omicron wave – The Daily Gazette

SCHENECTADY – Union College has banned the use of cloth face covers on campus, requiring students and faculty to wear only medical-grade masks amid a rising virus and growing calls for the country to adopt guidelines. stricter on the use of masks.

The policy has been in effect since the beginning of the winter semester, which was carried out remotely for the first week due to COVID concerns. A letter reminding students of the new policy was sent out last week when the students returned to campus.

“Since the omicron variant of COVID-19 is highly contagious, adherence to mask wearing rules is essential to safeguard the health of our community,” the letter says.

Under the new policy, disposable surgical masks or other medical grade masks are now required, including the N95, KN95, and KF94 masks. A cloth mask can only be used if it is combined with a surgical mask.

Philip Wajda, a spokesman for the university, said the policy was adopted after a growing body of research found that cloth masks are not as effective in slowing the spread of the omicron variant, a highly contagious strain of the virus that has sent many cases and hospitalizations. shooting up

“Cloth masks have been shown to be ineffective in slowing the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19 and should not be worn unless worn over a surgical-style disposable mask,” he said in an email.

He added that the university is also advising students to limit the amount of time masks are removed while eating and drinking and that masks are not required while students are in dormitories or while employees are alone in their office.

Universities and other organizations have implemented similar policies as a way to reduce the spread of the virus, including the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona.

On Wednesday, the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center announced that anyone entering the facility or one of its community clinics must wear a “medical procedure mask.”

“The change in the guide excludes the use of cloth masks, including alligators, neckerchiefs, ventilated masks and others that have not been found as effective in mitigating the spread of disease,” read a statement from the Medical Center. “This is especially important as newer variants emerge, which are proving to be more contagious. Vaccination, proper masking practices, hand hygiene, and social distancing continue to be the best mitigating control factors against the spread of COVID-19. “

The change in policy comes as a growing number of health officials have asked people to ditch cloth face coverings in favor of medical-grade masks as a way to slow the rise of the virus, and as the Biden Administration assesses send free N95 skins to residents around the world. the country.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that the CDC is considering a change to its mask guidelines that would recommend Americans wear KN95 or N95 masks if they can tolerate it.

Masks, the newspaper reported, have much more of an effect on filtering particles than cloth covers, but they are less comfortable and more expensive, which is why the CDC has yet to adopt a policy requiring the use of masks.

On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggested that people “get the highest quality mask that you can tolerate and that is available to you” during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. .

Cloth masks have been shown to stop large droplets and were encouraged in the early days of the pandemic due to a limited supply of N95 masks, which were later reserved for medical personnel.

Under current CDC guidance, comfortably fitting masks with at least two layers of breathable fabric and a metal nose bridge are recommended for anyone 2 years and older in closed public places. It is recommended to reserve N95 masks for medical personnel.

But on Tuesday, Fauci said that the N95 and KN95 masks are now widely available, adding that while the current CDC guidelines are more effective than wearing no mask, people should look for the best possible mask to protect themselves now. others.

“What the CDC has said, and it is misunderstood, they say that wearing any mask is better than not wearing any,” Fauci told CNN. “But there is a gradation of the ability to prevent you from getting infected and transmitting it to someone else. So we should use the best possible skins we can get. It is a fact.”

Meanwhile, universities across the region have been updating policies as they prepare to welcome students to campus.

The University of Albany delayed the start of the spring semester on Tuesday, delaying classes for a full week until January 24.

Students must present proof of vaccination, including a booster, if eligible. Those currently ineligible for a booster, which is recommended five months after the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and two months for those receiving the single dose of Johnson & Johnson, should receive the booster within seven days of being eligible.

Meanwhile, SUNY Schenectady County Community College is still finalizing reopening plans. Classes are scheduled to start next week.

Meanwhile, the State University of New York requires all students to wear a mask on its 64 campuses, which include UAlbany and SUNY Schenectady. Medical-grade masks are not required, but are recommended, according to Jackie Orchard, a spokeswoman for the public university system.

Contact Reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.

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Topics: News, Schenectady County

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