CUNY mask mandate lifted, Students weigh in

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Some CUNY students at Baruch College continue to wear masks in the hallway while other do not as the mask mandate is lifted at all CUNY schools. Photo by Amanda Salazar

Following Kathy Hochul’s lifting of the state’s COVID-19 mask mandate for K through 12 schools on Feb. 27, CUNY, the public college system for New York City, abolished its own mask mandate on March 4.

Out of all other states in the country, New York has the highest number of adults and teenagers vaccinated and the second highest number of children ages 5-11 vaccinated, all while the state has been experiencing a 98% decline in COVID-19 cases since the Omicron wave passed.

CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez made the announcement through an email blast to all CUNY students, staff and faculty that the mask mandate, which has been in place since August 2021, is now no longer in effect.

Masks are no longer required on CUNY campuses indoors or outdoors, though the vaccination and booster mandates both still stand.

“We are very hopeful for the coming weeks and months, but as we all know by now, the pandemic has taught us that public health conditions can change rapidly,” Matos Rodriguez wrote in his email. “CUNY will continue to monitor CDC guidelines and consult with our State and City health officials and should the evolving circumstances require a reconsideration of this or any policy, we will make the necessary changes to keep the CUNY community safe. I ask you to remain vigilant to ensure the safety of our campus communities.”

People, of course, are welcome to continue wearing masks on campus if they choose — which many have opted to do in the two days since the mandate lifting has been in effect.

“I have still worn my mask at CUNY because I am still worried about COVID and I want to do everything that I can to avoid getting it,” CUNY City College senior Yujin Lee said.

In addition to still wearing her mask, Lee said she isn’t totally sure she’s comfortable with large swaths of students taking their masks off.

“I feel conflicted about it because the pandemic is far from over but I understand that people feel fatigued from COVID and are tired of wearing masks all the time when out in public,” Lee said. “I feel that we still need the mask mandates as COVID is still going on and we still don’t have full control over this crisis. I think the most worrying thing is that people are starting to forget about COVID since it’s not spoken about that much in the media these days was it used to be back in 2020. I worry that if we don’t stay vigilant over COVID the crisis will still continue.”

However, not all CUNY students feel the same way.

“It was about time,” CUNY Baruch College student Edgar Llivisupa, of Queens, told PoliticsNY. “I felt very frustrated that, at CUNY, we were still a bit behind, because — I think two weeks ago — it was lifted in the state, we lifted the mandate, or at least the governor did. So, I felt that we were, for some reason, behind.”

This opinion was shared by another Baruch student, senior Jahlil Rush from Brooklyn, who agreed that it was time to lift the mandate.

“For the CUNY mask mandate, I 100% support it being removed,” Rush said. “Technically, I would even take it a step further: I don’t think that we, as CUNY students, ever should have had a mask mandate because how can you enforce a vaccine mandate and then go ahead, turn around, and enforce a mask mandate.”

Both Livisupa and Rush said that they don’t wear their masks everywhere on campus anymore, though Rush did say that he opts to wear it in crowded spaces like elevators and the library, where students often sit close together to share workspaces.

Llivisupa, on the other hand, said that he feels he is completely done wearing his mask on campus, regardless of whether other people would prefer everyone to be masked.

“So far, I haven’t found anyone coming to me to ask me to put it back on, but I’m also not looking forward to it because I’m definitely going to tell them, ‘No, I’m keeping it off,’” Llivisupa, a journalism and Spanish student, said.

Rush also said that he feels the mask mandate being lifted will lead to more COVID-19 change to come. For him, he’s hoping for more in-person club events and said that he thinks he sees more club life coming back already.

“It’s safe to say, it’s going to be a party at Baruch,” he said.