At least a dozen US universities reinstate mask mandates as COVID cases rise

Colleges and universities across the United States, particularly in the Northeast, have reinstated mask mandates and returned to online learning in response to a recent surge in COVID-19 infections on campuses, marking the third consecutive academic year disrupted by the coronavirus.

Schools in New York, Washington DC, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Texas have announced they will again require face coverings in classrooms or some indoor spaces as Howard University moves to remote learning to fight against the spread of the virus.

Most US universities dropped mask mandates ahead of spring break, following a winter push fueled by the Omicron variant. But several parts of the country have seen a further increase in cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks, as Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant drives a new wave of infections and illnesses.

Four schools in New York State have reinstated their indoor mask mandates in recent weeks. Syracuse University, located in a county with one of the highest surges in infections in the United States, announced it would again require masks in classrooms on Monday.

Earlier this month, Columbia University in New York announced that students would be required to wear non-cloth masks in classrooms for the remainder of the spring semester. The university directly cited the rise in the number of cases in the city and its own growing rate of test positivity in the decision.

Columbia graduate students during a recent strike (WSWS Media)

Barnard College, a Columbia-affiliated women’s school, also reimposed its indoor mask mandate due to a spike in cases since it lifted the rule in late March.

The University of Rochester announced on April 15 that it would reintroduce its indoor mask mandate policy for all of its campuses and properties in response to a spike in cases that was “straining the capacity” of quarantine spaces and isolation on its campuses.

“The high number of COVID-positive student cases at the University in recent days makes it in everyone’s interest to take the step of remasking indoors now,” said the university administration in a statement.

Four universities in Washington DC have also reinstated mask mandates following high transmission rates in the region and a significant increase in cases on their campuses. The city’s COVID-19 infection rate more than doubled in April.

Howard University students are now required to wear masks for all indoor settings and outdoor group settings until the end of the spring semester. Additionally, the university announced that many undergraduate courses will switch to remote learning during the final days of classes and final exams will be held virtually.

George Washington University also relaunched its mask mandate for all campus facilities earlier this month, noting that the mandate would extend through the remainder of its spring semester, exam period, and term. start. American University has reinstated its indoor mask mandate for all buildings on campus, and Georgetown is requiring indoor masking on two of its campuses.

The City of Philadelphia recently revived its mask mandate, prompting the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University to require indoor masking again starting Monday. Although the city prematurely ended the term on Thursday, the colleges have kept the terms in place.

In Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University announced it would begin testing all undergraduate students twice a week, noting a sharp rise in cases. The school also said masks would be required in classrooms and group environments like residence hall common areas.

In Houston, Rice University announced earlier this month that students should resume wearing masks in classrooms and canceled large campus parties, citing an increase in cases on campus.

The rise in COVID-19 infections in American schools and campuses is a direct product of the deliberate policies of the American ruling class, which seeks to normalize sickness and death. In February, the Biden administration urged states to reclassify what qualify as COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths using the artificial distinction between those hospitalized “with COVID-19” and those hospitalized “because of COVID-19.” COVID-19,” a far-right talking point since the start of the pandemic.

It was also in February that nearly all states began ending mask mandates still in place. Several states have reduced the number of public COVID-19 testing sites, bringing testing to its lowest level since last summer. Federal pandemic funding also dried up in March, meaning uninsured people now have to pay $100 for a PCR test.

The sabotage of any serious public health response to the pandemic, led by the American capitalist class and its political representatives, has needlessly killed over a million Americans and potentially exposed many more to the debilitating effects of Long COVID.

The fight to close schools to in-person instruction and save lives is inseparable from the growing class struggle in the United States and around the world. Stopping the spread of infections and deaths requires a globally coordinated movement to use all available public health measures to eliminate the deadly disease.

On May Day, the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) is organizing an online international May Day rally to provide the global working class with a fighting strategy to stop the pandemic and the march towards world war. All students, youth, workers and professionals around the world are encouraged to participate and join in the struggle for a socialist program.

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