Sac State students comment on county and campus mask mandates


Therese Gatchalian, a third-year pre-nursing major, sits near the library benches on Friday, Feb 18. Gatchalian said she agrees with the campus’s continued requirement to wear masks indoors and feels that masks protect students when social distancing in classrooms is impossible. (Photo by Priscilla Garcia-Pargas)

California’s Department of Public Health announced that Sacramento’s indoor mask mandate would be lifted for vaccinated people on Feb. 16. 

In response, Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen released a SacSend email saying the university will continue to require masking indoors on campus regardless of the decision. 

Sac State students voiced a range of both concern and support for Nelsen’s announcement. Some say they will continue to wear a mask if the mandate gets lifted on campus, and others think the mandate should be lifted since they feel safe this far into the pandemic.

According to the California Department of Public Health, although the hospitals are still at full capacity, the surge in Omicron cases has decreased and Californians are more knowledgeable on wearing the proper masks and taking proper precautions to protect themselves from getting COVID-19, making it appropriate to lift the mandate at this time.  

Miranda Cramer, a second-year biology major said she believes the risk is still too high for the mandate to be lifted. 

“COVID it is still pretty bad right now with Omicron,” Cramer said. “I actually got [COVID-19] early January, and I was still wearing my mask at work and stuff.” 

Cramer said that if the mandate were lifted for students on campus, she would still potentially show up with a mask for her classes even though she is fully vaccinated. 

Therese Gatchalian, a third-year pre-nursing major, said she believes the mandate for Sacramento was lifted too early and agrees with the university’s decision to maintain the requirement.

Second-year biology major Miranda Cramer poses by the Sacramento State University Theater on Friday, Feb. 18. Cramer said she is fully vaccinated but got COVID-19 earlier this year despite wearing a mask. (Photo by Priscilla Garcia-Pargas)

“I have two in-person classes, and they’re all close quarters– there are about 40 students in the classroom,” Gatchalian said. “No windows are open. There’s someone behind me or someone in front of me.” 

Gatchalian said she feels safe on campus wearing a mask, but if Sac State were to announce that the mask mandate was lifted, she would feel unsafe attending her classes. 

“I feel like the mask protects us from each other,” Gatchalian said. “From someone coughing or any viruses that can spread towards us, I think it should be kept in classrooms.” 

More students have returned to Sac State’s campus this semester since in-person learning has been almost fully reinstated for the first time since early 2020. 

Peter Wagner, a first-year civil engineering major, said he believes it should depend on the capacity of each classroom whether they should wear a mask or not. 

“I think with the [campus] vaccine requirement and with the boosters required, it does give me a little more sense of security,” Wagner said. “It’s not like a bunch of unvaccinated people wandering around.”

The CDPH updated a requirement on Thursday stating that those who are fully vaccinated are recommended to wear masks indoors when they feel they might be at risk.

“Currently, I think the situation is volatile in terms of what people want,” senior business major Daniel Lacer said. ”Obviously there are people that are scared still and then people that are over it. Personally, I’m over it.” 

Lacer said he believes that even though organizations have gone over the data and concluded that vaccinated people can once again go without wearing a mask, it might have been too early with the scare of new variants. 

“Everybody has their own health situation; personally, I feel if you know that you have problems or you have health issues that you should be concerned about, then yeah, you should be concerned,” Lacer said. “But if you feel that you’re healthy and you’ve done your vaccinations and don’t feel threatened by it, I feel like you should be able to walk on campus at your own risk.”

Within the next two weeks, Nelsen said that the university’s COVID-19 task force is working towards establishing a way for the campus to lift the mask requirement for those who are vaccinated.

Rachel Acob, a third-year ethnic studies major said she feels indifferent about the mask mandate lifting in Sacramento county and wouldn’t support it if it was also lifted on campus. 

“I might just still come and wear my mask, personally,” Acob said. “You should just care about your safety as a person.”

Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the mask mandate will be lifted for unvaccinated Californians as well in K-12 schools on March 11. 

It is still unknown if Sac State will also be lifting the mask mandate for the campus or continue to require it after March 11. 

Gary Rosenblum, associate vice president of Risk Management, said that President Nelsen ultimately makes all the decisions after listening to the recommendations of the advisory group.

Daniel Lacer, a senior business major poses on a bench near the Sacramento State theater on Friday, Feb. 18. Lacer said he is over wearing a mask, and students should be able to walk on campus with or without a mask as long as they know the risks. (Photo by Priscilla Garcia-Pargas)

Rosenblum says that they take the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s considerations seriously and recognize that students don’t have to follow their guidelines, but that Sac State staff and faculty do. 

OSHA currently requires all places of work where there are unvaccinated employees to continue wearing masks, according to Rosenblum. 

“There’s no outdoor requirement. It’s only for indoors,” Rosenblum said. ”So the fact that the students are wearing them outdoors shows that they’re committed to having a safe campus.”

 Rosenblum said they are not relying on any calendar and setting their own when it comes to what the future may look like with masking on campus, as the conditions keep changing.

“We’re all in this together as sort of like a family in a house and so we need to act accordingly,” Rosenblum said.