Emerson to drop mask requirements, maintain weekly testing requirement in fall semester

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Photo: Zhihao Wu

Emerson’s COVID-19 testing center at the corner of Kneeland Street and Harrison Ave.

By Charlie McKenna, Editor-in-Chief

Emerson will drop its mask requirement in the fall semester but still mandate weekly COVID-19 testing for all community members, regardless of their vaccination status, college officials announced Wednesday.

The college will require masks for all community members between Aug. 16 and Sept. 17 but will then shift to a “mask-optional policy” for “a majority” of the campus, said “COVID Lead” and Assistant Vice President for Campus Life Erik Muurisepp in a Wednesday afternoon email. However, students will still be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing at Tufts Medical Center, where they will be expected to “sign up and commit to a regular weekly testing time.”

For fully-vaccinated community members on-campus before Aug. 16, the college’s mask policy will shift to a “recommendation.” Unvaccinated individuals are still required to wear a mask in all campus spaces. 

The decision to require masking for the first month of fall semester operations came as a result of an effort to “rebuild our ‘Emerson Bubble,’” Muurisepp wrote. 

The new policies provide the first glimpse at Emerson’s return to normal after a year of pandemic-era operations. The email cites the high vaccination rates in Massachusetts and Boston — more than 61 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated — as part of the reason for the shift in guidance. 

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Over the course of the fall and spring semesters, Emerson racked up 229 positive COVID-19 tests and a .17 percent positivity rate. 

Classrooms will shift from 6 feet of social distancing to 3 square feet of distancing, Muurisepp wrote. 

Previously, on June 1, the college dropped capacity limits for all meeting spaces, function rooms, elevators and common spaces. 

Students are required to provide the college with documentation proving they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 15.