Mandates change twice; masks required for fall

COVID-19 regulations regarding indoor and outdoor policies have recently changed on campus to accommodate recommendations posed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. 

However, following another email from Cant on August 4 regarding updated regulations, it appears concerns about the Delta variant have raised, and already answered, the question of whether or not these new regulation changes may revert back quicker than anticipated. 

“There have been very disconcerting developments, particularly related to the dominance of the highly transmissible Delta variant,’’ said President Greg Cant in an Aug. 4 email. “The situation is further complicated by recent research that finds vaccinated individuals can transmit the virus to others, even though they are personally unlikely to experience severe illness.” 

As of Aug. 5, face masks have been again required in all indoor locations for every member of campus, regardless of vaccination status. Similar to last semester, masks may be removed in residence hall rooms but must be worn in all common spaces and when visiting another student’s room. And though some events may need to be altered, academic spaces will still be operating at full capacity, so the university’s COVID-19 Task Force is still planning to have as many “normal” indoor events as possible. 

Masks are still not required in outdoor spaces, but Cant asks that unvaccinated individuals use their best judgement in determining whether or not one may be necessary. 

“The CDC has recommended indoor masking for areas with a “substantial” transmission rate for several weeks. We have watched as other areas of the country became affected, and realized that it was only a matter of time before Pennsylvania would see similar increases,” said Justin Kraynack, associate vice president of operations and compliance, and member of the Daily Response Task Force. “This week, Luzerne County’s transmission rate increased and prompted the decision we all believed was inevitable. We will continue to monitor our local and regional rates as we enter the beginning of the semester.”

For Jessica Turnitza, senior nursing student at Wilkes, this sudden, though possibly predictable, update on regulations is a necessary requirement in ensuring the safety of our community. 

“I think it was something that we all knew was bound to happen, but we were hoping it wouldn’t,” Tunitza said. “It’s not just Wilkes University who is bringing back the mask mandate. I applaud them for making the difficult, but necessary decisions. 

“In the whole scheme of things, sure it would be nice not to wear a mask, to see people’s faces, to go back to our original ways. But, for a virus who has countless variants with a mind of its own, I think I can say it’s more than wanting to wear a mask or not, now it’s simply a need.” 

Sophomore political science major, Katie Ermeus, feels a similar bout of gratitude toward the Task Force in making the right decisions for our campus, though fears the potential threat of another lockdown. 

“I think the university made a wise decision to bring back masks for indoor locations. I know for many it’s a pain and a hassle, but it’s definitely better than going back online or not being able to come back at all,” said Ermeus. “I think they’re taking the appropriate measure to ensure that all students are safe. 

“I am a little worried about what the future may bring in terms of stricter regulations and possibly going back to lower capacity class sizes and events. All we can do, though, is focus on what we can control and that’s wearing our masks and focusing on keeping each other safe with what we do know right now.

Ermeus added that she hopes the situation does not worsen and that everyone is able to move in a positive direction.

In order to keep individuals as safe as possible and reduce the spreading of the virus, Kraynack urges those students able to receive the vaccine to do so. 

“The vaccines available against COVID today are proven to be very effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization,” he explained. “Our hope is that as more people become vaccinated, the COVID-19 variants will become less of an issue to our community. Vaccines are readily available at most drug stores or through regional departments of health. A list of vaccination providers near you can be found via”

While it is apparent how quickly regulations can fluctuate, the Task Force has no plans at this time to return to any of the more intense COVID-19 procedures. 

“At this time, masking indoors is considered the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID,” Kraynack continued. “Though more aggressive protocols may be recommended in the future, at this time it seems unlikely. We will, however, continue to monitor not only the transmission rates in our community but in the region as well. If more drastic protocols become necessary to maintain a safe environment, we are prepared to act quickly to reduce the overall effects on our community.” 

To stay up to date with current developments on campus regarding COVID-19, visit the COVID Frequently Asked Questions page on the Wilkes University website. Any students, staff or faculty looking to voice a question, comment or concern is welcome to reach out to the Task Force at [email protected].