Despite rising COVID numbers, college will not require masks — for now


Crusader staff

Even though area school districts have either canceled classes for the week or reinstated masks, SCCC remains maskless. The choice is left in the hands of individuals.

At this time, Seward County Community College will not go back to mandatory masks on campus despite the fact that the Liberal school district did last week. Students will, however, have some new and revised quarantine guidelines.

Rachel Coleman, a member of the COVID response team for SCCC, said the impact of the district’s decision is different from what SCCC is looking at. The college is more interested in transmission between students and not Liberal as a whole, while the USD 480 student population is spread out among the entire community. The active COVID infections in Seward County are listed at 600 individuals, according to the health department.

“Our plan at this point is to not follow suit – In a nutshell, our approach has always been to encourage personal responsibility – and follow our core values of trust, integrity and valuing others,” Coleman said.

Our approach has always been to encourage personal responsibility

— Rachel Coleman

This means students, faculty and staff will have the ability to make a personal choice on whether to wear a mask on campus or not. Instructors are still able to require masks in their classrooms along with options for hybrid classes. The SCCC community should also be proactive in reporting if they are sick — any kind of sickness — and should stay home to protect others from spread.  

Coleman added, “We can’t police everyone–the best we can do is keep good information, give good advice and be a resource for our students.” 

The college still offers support for COVID-positive students through a self-reporting tool on the website. Once the online form is filled out, one of the members will contact those affected and make sure there is communication between instructors and the student. Each case is handled on an individual basis – with quarantining and requirements being all different. 

“The best advice I could give is if you have been exposed or you think you have been exposed do the self-reporting on our website. Someone will call you and talk to you to get a sense of what your situation is… I feel like for myself I just want to talk it through with someone that can give me good advice. That’s what Celeste [Donovan], Dan [Artamenko] and Luke [Dowell] are doing,” said Coleman.

The amount of time for quarantine of those fully vaccinated has recently changed via CDC. The new recommendation is five days isolated and without a fever for 24 hours then on the sixth day, out of quarantine but required to wear a mask for the following five days. 

The COVID response team is tracking whether or not the spread of COVID is starting on campus or if students are exposed outside of the college community. Luke Dowell, a member of the COVID response team, shared a similar sentiment when discussing the USD 480 decision. 

I feel like it is more of a personal preference – I don’t have anything against masks.

— Israel Banuelos, Jr.

“If we have evidence it is spreading in the classroom, one person that tests positive and then several more in that same class test positive it is evidence that it is spreading on campus…If we see evidence of that then we will look at what we need to do to alleviate the spread of everything to mask or going full remote – no restrictions are off the table,” said Dowell. 

Students at SCCC have different responses to the mask mandate and other covid protocols — Coleman said she has seen more students voluntarily wearing masks on campus than last semester.  

Jaxon Rios, a pre-engineering major, said, “I feel that if you are sick you should wear masks and generally stay home… Masks in general – if you want to you can, if it’s not required then I don’t really care.”

Israel Banuelos Jr., a finance major at SCCC, shared similar ideas as Rios, “I feel like it is more of a personal preference – I don’t have anything against masks… I think if people want to wear them then it’s a personal decision… It’s up to what you believe is best for you and your health.”

The updated quarantine and return to campus guidelines are:  

  • If you are unvaccinated and exposed to someone who is COVID: positive results should quarantine for five days and be tested; once symptom-free return on day 6 and use a mask for five additional days.  
  • If you are vaccinated and exposed to someone who is COVID positive, you are not expected to quarantine UNLESS you develop symptoms: 1) Watch for symptoms for 10 days after exposure.  2) If symptoms, isolate and stay home until able to get test results. 3) Wear a mask around others and avoid travel.  
  • If you worry that you have COVID, try to get tested.  
  • Be aware that returning on Day 6 will be conditional on how you are feeling, whether you have had a fever and whether you have been able to obtain testing. The COVID response team member will communicate to the individual to help sort this out.