A Look at Fordham Messaging on Masks

Fordham+has+implemented+an+indoor+mask+mandate%2C+contact+tracing+protocols+and+mandatory+testing+after+Thanksgiving+break.+%28Courtesy+of+the+Ram+Archives%29+

Sari Avila Franklin/The Fordham Ram

Fordham has implemented an indoor mask mandate, contact tracing protocols and mandatory testing after Thanksgiving break. (Courtesy of the Ram Archives)

Isabel Danzis , Assistant News Editor

During the fall 2021 semester, Fordham University’s COVID-19 rates have been relatively low compared to last year’s numbers. This low number of cases can likely be attributed to the university’s vaccine mandate. However, during the week of Nov. 18, university-wide COVID-19 cases reached 87, a record high for this semester.

The number of on-campus cases has been rising, with the week of Nov. 11 totaling 68 on-campus cases. The “5 Things Briefing” sent out on Nov. 11 announced that the number of on-campus cases had doubled in just two weeks. The increase was found to be “almost exclusively among students, due in large part to attendance at off-campus, unmasked indoor gatherings.” The message that the cases were rising largely due to off-campus social events was reiterated in the Nov. 18 briefing as well.

While off-campus and non-masked events contribute to the rise in COVID-19 cases, there have been some on-campus events where masking and standard COVID-19 policies are not strictly enforced. One notable instance was a performance by rapper ASAP Ferg at Fordham’s Late Night On the Hill event, which was meant to ring the start of the basketball season. The event, hosted in the Rose Hill Gym, gathered roughly 2,700 students to watch ASAP Ferg perform, with very few attendees wearing masks. Some students who attended that event also stated that there seemed to be little to no enforcement of the masking policy. The lack of masks is despite the policy announced by Fordham stating that “all individuals are required to wear face masks indoors in every location on campus, including audience members at athletic events and performances.”

“We noted that there was some non-mask compliance at a recent show,” said Marco Valera, Vice President for Administration and COVID-19 Coordinator. “We continue to emphasize the need for masks indoors. We are most concerned at external gatherings in intimate settings where people are very close to each other and especially where the vaccination status cannot be confirmed and where ventilation is not the best.”

Beyond just sporting events, Fordham’s mask policy seems to be relatively relaxed on campus to some individuals. “I know there is some frustration with ‘masking up’ in [residence halls, common spaces, Ram Fit, Marketplace, etc.] Many of these places present the ‘foggy areas’ that are sometimes difficult to navigate: students walking down the hallways of their dorm, how quickly a mask is put back up after someone is finished eating, etc.” said

Thomas Reuter, FCRH ’22, executive president of the United Student Government (USG) at Rose Hill. “At the end of the day, a mask mandate shouldn’t have to be enforced; caring for others should include knowing when to wear your mask.”

According to Valera, all administrators, resident assistants, coaches, faculty and university staff have been asked by the university to enforce the mask mandates in indoor spaces. However, Valera also stated that the university has no way to know how widely the mask mandate is followed.
However, the enforcement of the mask policy is effective in some campus spaces. “There have been a few times when we were asked to send Public Safety to various locations to remind individuals to wear masks,” said Valera.

The university acknowledges that the increase in positive cases can not be attributed to off-campus gatherings entirely. “We understand that it’s a mix, some from roommates and some from close intimate gatherings at off-campus locations,” said Valera.

Despite Fordham’s attempts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 with mask and vaccine mandates, the exact source of this most recent spike in cases remains largely unknown. “We don’t know and haven’t heard too much about root causes. Again, we urge our peers to get the booster vaccine available at Fordham once they are eligible. Large, enclosed gatherings such as Barnyard are certainly not helpful either; it may have contributed to the increase post-Halloween,” said Reuter.

Fordham is currently running a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on the lowest level of O’Hare Hall. Per New York City guidelines, all individuals over the age of 18 who received their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccination at least six months ago or received a Johnson and Johnson vaccine at least two months ago are eligible to receive a booster shot. Students and faculty can schedule an appointment for the vaccine by visiting the Fordham webpage.

Fordham required COVID-19 testing for all students returning from Thanksgiving break. Any students, faculty or staff members returning to campus must receive a test between Nov. 29 and Dec. 10. While this test does not have to be on campus, it must be reported to the university. “We are strong proponents of the University’s new testing guidance upon returning from Thanksgiving break,” said Reuter.

Testing is available to students at the Rose Hill campus in Parking Lot A. In addition to being tested after returning from Thanksgiving break, students and professors must get tested if they receive notice that they were exposed during a class. According to Valera, the university is monitoring which students get tested following getting contact traced.

“From what I have heard, any student who needs a test (symptomatic or exposed) has been able to get one,” said Reuter. “USG did put together a COVID-19 testing proposal to increase availability and testing on campus. It sounds as though testing has adapted on campus since the start of the semester, and concerned students may still have broad access to tests.”

Valera stated that at the moment, the university is not thinking about changing its policies for the upcoming semester.

While there is still concern about the virus on campus, USG has also heard from students that they are grateful that in-person activities can happen this year, even if some COVID-19 policies linger. “Students are excited to be back on campus with in-person instruction, and if masks mitigate class disruption, it seems to be a small burden,” said Reuter.