5Cs mostly drop mask requirements for vaccinated people, but Delta is still cause for concern

Some of the 5Cs dropped mask mandates for vaccinated individuals indoors and outdoors, but with the increased spread of the Delta variant in LA County, others are asking that mask-wearing continues. (Courtesy: GoToVan via Wikimedia Commons)

New state and county guidelines paved the way for most of the 5Cs to scrap their mask mandates for fully vaccinated individuals, but with the spread of the Delta variant, some are already beginning to backtrack.

On June 15, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared the state fully reopened. Shortly afterward, the state’s workplace safety division dropped its guidance requiring face coverings indoors for vaccinated workers. Los Angeles County concurrently relaxed its requirements.

In late June, four of the 5Cs told workers that fully vaccinated individuals could go without face coverings indoors and outdoors. Pitzer College, however, said even those who have completed their shot regimens would have to continue masking in most indoor areas.

Pitzer spokesperson Jim Marchant told TSL that the school is heeding the most recent guidance from the LA County Department of Public Health, which advises continued mask-wearing to stave off the Delta variant.

“We hope that the public health situation will improve in the coming weeks and that we will be in a position to lift this requirement based on future guidance from LACDPH,” Marchant said via email, adding that the current rules only affect a small number of people currently working on campus.

While LA County hasn’t officially put mask mandates back on the table, it has strongly urged all residents to continue wearing masks indoors in the days following the state’s updated guidance. The Delta variant, a highly transmissible mutation of the coronavirus, is now responsible for the majority of variants of concern within county lines and has fueled a recent 165 percent spike in cases. 

“While [the] COVID-19 vaccine provides very effective protection preventing hospitalizations and deaths against the Delta variant, the strain is proving to be more transmissible and is expected to become more prevalent,” LACDPH Director Barbara Ferrer said in a June 28 news release. “Mask-wearing remains an effective tool for reducing transmission, especially indoors where the virus may be easily spread through inhalation of aerosols emitted by an infected person.”

On June 29, just a day after rescinding its own mask requirement, Pomona College COO Rob Goldberg and assistant vice president for human resources Brenda Rushforth told faculty and staff in a message that face coverings are still strongly recommended for everyone indoors. Pomona’s directions now apply to a group of 28 students who have arrived on campus to participate in summer research and employment.

The 5Cs are also relaxing other measures in response to the pandemic, including physical distancing and weekly testing requirements. 

Scripps College, Harvey Mudd College, Pomona and Pitzer plan to require vaccination for faculty and staff, allowing for medical or religious exemptions, once one of the three authorized vaccines is fully approved by the FDA — a process whose timeline remains uncertain. Claremont McKenna College says it’s in the process of deciding whether such a requirement is justified.

Each school has already told students they’ll need to be vaccinated in order to return to campus in August.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Scripps and Harvey Mudd have already mandated faculty and staff vaccination. In fact, they plan to do so once a vaccine obtains full FDA approval. TSL regrets this error.

This article was updated July 15 at 9:00 a.m.

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