CUC Lifts Face Mask Requirement


COVID-19 testing equipment in the on-campus testing site in the Koehneke Community Center on Feb. 5.

Michael Labellarte

Concordia University Chicago will lift its face mask mandate beginning on Feb. 28, the university administration announced in an email to students and staff on Monday.

The decision follows both Cook County and the state of Illinois ending their requirements for face masks to be worn inside public venues.

The email from the CUC Emergency Response team reminded students and staff to continue employing safe practices to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks on campus. “Individuals may still wear face masks should they choose to do so, and the University recommends all members of our campus community continue exhibiting understanding and kindness in this situation,” the email stated.

The Illinois vaccine mandate for universities is still in effect, and unvaccinated students and staff will continue to adhere to weekly testing protocols. The CUC Emergency Response team also asked people who experience flu-like symptoms to take a test and report a confirmed infection on the university’s web form.

CUC will not, however, ask for a post-Spring Break COVID-19 test similar to the testing that was required after Winter Break.

While the face mask requirement in Illinois has been lifted, universities are still given a choice whether to require masks or not.

“We have removed the requirement and are making masks optional,” said Kathy Gebhardt, dean of students. “This allows our students and employees the option to choose whether or not they would like to wear a mask in our indoor spaces on-campus.

This furthers CUC’s pattern of accommodating policy when it comes to COVID-19 requirements, since the school does not enforce a vaccine mandate, instead allowing unvaccinated students and faculty to attend campus with weekly COVID-19 testing to comply with Illinois state regulations.

“We have decided to not make vaccinations a requirement here, but with that means weekly testing and tracking,” said Gebhardt. “I think it’s the happy medium, where we are doing everything to keep people safe, but still giving some choice.”

Other Chicago area schools have implemented vaccine requirements to be on campus. Dominican University, Roosevelt University, and University of Loyola require students and faculty to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I support the vaccine mandate at DU, however sometimes I believe they can be too cautious when trying to stop the spread of COVID,” said Rachel Huser, a senior at Dominican University who also attends a radio broadcasting class at CUC.

Students have mixed opinions about the mandates and whether schools should implement them as well. “I do not think it is the school’s place to mandate vaccines, but if they do not, they need to have testing for the unvaccinated,” said junior Jake Odle.

The fall semester saw 58 reported cases at CUC before the campus saw another 102 new cases just in December and January, according to CUC’s COVID-19 dashboard. New cases have since fallen, with only 33 reported since Jan. 17.

While the state and federal guidelines are still in place, the prevalence of COVID-19 is trending downward nationwide. The week of Feb. 10 to 17 saw an average of 121,665 new cases each day, which was a 43% decrease from the previous week, according to a recent tweet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 has killed more than 900,000 people in the United States, including more than 34,000 people in Illinois, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

With the easing of COVID-19 regulations and mandates across the state, Gebhardt said, “We are extremely optimistic and hopeful that we will be able to start the fall 2022 academic year without all of the COVID-19 restrictions.”

Current plans are for a return of all graduation-related events, including a spring formal. While the campus still may not feel completely normal, the lifting of the mask is a significant step toward pre-pandemic life.

Some students feel that there might not be a normal for a long time.

“Do I think things will go back to normal next fall?” Huser said. “Ultimately it depends on if a new variant arises. Also, what even is normal anymore?”