Many Universities Ban Cloth Masks, Require Medical-Grade Masks

This is a move that comes as the highly contagious Omicron variant fuels COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Posted at 1:42 PM, Jan 13, 2022

Universities across the United States are changing their mask policies amid the Omicron surge. 

Schools including the University of Southern California, The California Institute of Technology, The University of Arizona, Cornell University and many more are banning cloth masks. Students and faculty are now required to wear medical-grade masks, like the N95, while indoors.

"As Omicron has emerged of this more transmissible virus, the evidence has also been amassing that masks can be effective, and high-quality masks can prevent transmission more than cloth or other kinds of face masks. So for us, it just seemed like there's no other right decision to make," USC's Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman told Newsy Thursday.

According to Van Orman, USC has enough supply of N95 masks for students, staff and visitors. Additionally, students and staff are required to be fully vaccinated — including booster shots if eligible.

"So we do have a really strong requirement for vaccination, as well as boosters. In the fall semester over 95% of all faculty staff on our campus were fully vaccinated and we're now implementing our booster requirement. So, by Jan. 31, everyone at USC will be required to be up to date on their vaccinations, which includes having a booster if they're eligible," said Van Orman. 

USC will also conduct weekly COVID-19 testing of all students to help stop the spread at an early stage.