As ICU beds remain full in Baton Rouge with Delta-variant COVID-19 patients, LSU students and faculty alike raise concerns that the prevention protocols laid out in the university’s “COVID-19 Roadmap” are not being followed.
While experts agree that LSU’s recent vaccine mandate is a step in the right direction in keeping campus healthy, previously implemented prevention measures such as masking are also critical in preventing the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Rumors have circulated since the beginning of the school year that those restrictions have not been followed consistently on campus.
Mass communication senior Braxton Brown said that he has witnessed classes with unmasked visitors and little to no social distancing.
“We’ve had a couple of different special guests who’ve asked if they were okay to take off their masks during presentations,” Brown said. “It is a little bit uncomfortable whenever they take their mask down and you’re right next to them.”
Pathobiological sciences professor Rebecca Christofferson, a member of LSU’s Health and Medical Advisory Committee, warns that the level of risk for contracting COVID-19 depends on human behavior.
“It depends on how far away people are sitting, it depends on what people are doing right,” Christofferson said. “In the typical classroom setting, say we’re at 100% capacity, if students are not masking and they are relatively reckless outside of class as well, they are putting themselves at risk. Masking is the most immediate way to stop transmission.”
Not only is masking an important part of LSU’s prevention protocols, it is legally enforceable by the state. Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a state-wide mandate requiring masks to be worn indoors for a majority of the pandemic.
At a press conference on Sept. 30, Edwards extended the current mask mandate until at least Oct. 27. The consequence for a business or other institution found in violation of the order is a fine up to $500 or a six-month prison sentence.
Ashley Rodrigue, the director of public affairs for the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal, one of the agencies tasked with enforcement of the governor’s order, reports that the agency has not written any citations for violations of the governor’s orders regarding COVID-19, nor have they received any complaints about LSU.
“That’s certainly an option on the table,” Rodrigue said. “But it’s something the governor has always made very clear that he only wanted to see that occur in an instance where there was egregious non-compliance. He always preferred compliance to be on an educational front, as opposed to an enforcement front.”
LSU’s internal mask violation reporting system asks students to provide the building and approximate location of the alleged violation, as well as the number of non-compliant individuals and the situation they were involved in. University spokesman Ernie Ballard said that other types of COVID-protocol violations can also be reported using the form.