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Princeton announces policies on masks in classrooms

<h6>Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian

Students will be required to wear masks in the classroom, but fully vaccinated instructors may remove their mask for all or part of the class “at their own discretion,” according to new guidance from the University on Monday.

These rules will be in effect from the first day of class on Sept. 1 through Sept. 9 and will be updated by Sept. 10. 

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Although students are required to wear face coverings throughout class, “if the instructor finds it necessary for a student to remove their mask for a short period of time, they may do so, as long as only one student has their mask down or off at any one time.” 

Instructors who choose to lecture without a mask must be fully vaccinated and participate in the University’s asymptomatic testing program, which currently requires vaccinated individuals to submit a saliva test weekly while unvaccinated individuals must test twice per week.

The guidelines also apply to visiting instructors, who must be fully vaccinated and must have provided a negative COVID-19 test result within 48 hours of instruction.

In classes with 12 students or fewer, students and faculty will have more leeway. For these seminars, instructors “may decide whether fully vaccinated students should be allowed to remove their masks for all or part of the class.”

Under no circumstances may an instructor require a student to remove their mask in any classroom, lecture, or event, according to the guidelines. 

If the mask policy for classrooms changes in the future, individual faculty members have the option to require all students in their classroom to wear face coverings, “even if the mask policy does not require all students to do so.”

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No eating will be permitted in the classroom, but students will be permitted to “lift their mask briefly to drink.” 

The guidelines also included “recommendations” concerning masks, advising students and faculty that they may consider using clear masks to enable “seeing facial expressions” and “mouth movements.” 

Face shields are not substitutes for masks, but they can offer additional protection, according to the University guidelines. Disposable procedure masks, also known as surgical masks, “do not significantly affect the volume or clarity of speech compared to cloth or other disposable masks,” the University wrote in the guidelines. 

The Aug. 23 guidelines come after an Aug. 11 announcement of a universal indoor masking requirement that only made exceptions for students while in their own dorm rooms, while “actively eating or drinking,” and while working alone in a room or cubicle. 

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On Aug. 12, the following day, Executive Vice President Treby Williams said at an employee town hall that the face covering requirement “does not include classroom instruction, where we understand that mask wearing can be difficult.” Williams had promised that further guidance on face coverings in class would be provided on Aug. 23, a statement corroborated by the Office of Communications.

As of Aug. 22, Princeton’s employee vaccination rate stood at approximately 97 percent, according to the COVID-19 dashboard. Hotchkiss previously told the ‘Prince’ that the University estimates the total number of employees to be 7,400. 

Further guidance on masking on campus past the initial move-in period is forthcoming on Sept. 15, according to previous University announcements. 

This story is breaking and will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.

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