Making decisions about your well-being amid changing COVID-19 public health guidance

Alice! Health Promotion
March 16, 2022

Over the last two years, most people’s lives have been overshadowed by COVID-19. Though public health guidance has changed frequently during this time in response to infection rates and hospitalizations, we find ourselves in a moment in which the overwhelming majority of our campus are  vaccinated and boosted and almost all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

In response to this moment, the University has removed restrictions on masks and other protocols to allow the community to re-engage more fully with campus life. Because we know that our community must set policy informed by the latest data, the COVID-19 Task Force will continue to monitor the infection rates on campus and in the city and make adjustments to the guidance accordingly.

Every person has their reason and it should be respected

While changes are likely exciting for many in our community, some Columbians may feel concerned about what this means for their own safety, and for vulnerable populations around them.

In this moment, it is incumbent on each of us to recognize that, everyone still has the right to take measures that help them to feel safe and comfortable, including those who may wish to continue to distance, wear a mask, avoid large gatherings, etc. Community members may continue to follow these measures for any number of reasons, some of which may include:

  • They are at risk for severe illness
  • They have loved ones who are among those at high risk
  • They want to protect themselves against other illnesses
  • It has become a habit
  • It provides peace of mind
  • Keeps other illnesses and allergies at bay
Dr. Melanie Bernitz on the Future of Masks

Know where you stand

To help you decide whether to continue masking or following other public health protocols or in what situations, you can ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • How am I feeling in response to the shift in guidance? 
  • What are my priorities? How does following public health guidance align with these priorities?
  • What, if any, concerns do I have about not wearing a mask?
  • What activities do I feel comfortable with? Are there any that cause me concern?
  • Do I regularly interact with someone at higher risk of becoming severely ill?
  • Do I know the risk profile for those I plan to interact with?
  • Would I feel more comfortable in any of my daily situations if I continued to follow COVID-19 protective measures?

What you do is up to you

Lifting restrictions on gathering sizes and masks indoors can expand the ways in which community members socialize, but those social settings may look and feel different based on an individual’s own level of comfort. While some may feel comfortable going to a concert unmasked, others might prefer to limit their maskless encounters to smaller gatherings.

For individuals sitting in a circle, two are facing camera, one is laughing and another is smiling. Flowers in foreground

If going unmasked feels uncomfortable to you, it’s okay to make the change slowly or not at all. If you feel pressure to unmask because of the updated guidance, remember that the decision to mask (or not) is up to you. It’s okay to feel nervous about this change; the experience of the pandemic over the last two years has impacted each of us differently. If it feels overwhelming, consider seeking support from friends, trusted faculty or administrators, and of course, Columbia Health (Morningside/Manhanttanville), Student Health on Haven (CUIMC), or your primary care provider (faculty and staff).

While COVID-19 isn’t gone, we hope that taking measures such as lifting the indoor mask mandate demonstrate progress towards learning to live as safely as possible with this virus.