Bates Updates Masking Policies as Delta Variant Concerns Mount

Early in the afternoon on Aug. 16, Josh McIntosh, Vice President of Campus Life, sent an email updating the college’s public health policies for the fall semester that were previously released on July 27. 

McIntosh’s message reads that “all Bates community members, vaccinated and unvaccinated, must wear a mask while indoors, both on-campus and off-campus, effective Tuesday, August 27.” 

Exceptions to the rule include when seated in Commons or at a college-catered event. Masks will be required, however, when entering Commons or the servery procuring food. 

Additionally, students will not have to wear masks while in residence halls or when in a private campus indoor space by themselves. 

“These exceptions are designed to allow students to be unmasked when it is safe or not practical to wear them,” McIntosh’s message states. 

This new masking mandate is a significant deviation from the original protocol released in July, which only required students to wear a mask for their first hour on campus while they awaited rapid test results. 

McIntosh attributes this change in the masking protocol to Androscoggin County’s current identification as having a “substantial” transmission profile by the CDC, which is suspected to be soon changed to “high.” Based on the recommendations of public health experts, Bates was advised to implement stricter masking regulations. 

Although it is estimated that approximately 95% of the campus community is fully vaccinated, the highly transmissible delta variant is a cause for concern. 

In the message, McIntosh acknowledged the difficulty of returning to masking indoors following a summer of likely less strict COVID-19 public health policies. 

“We hope these masking guidelines will be temporary as this wave of COVID-19 in Androscoggin County waxes and then wanes,” McIntosh said. He further explained that the general delta variant pattern consists of fairly fast spikes in local areas followed by fast declines, establishing further anticipation that the mask mandate will be lifted. 

At the end of McIntosh’s message, he prompted students to visit the FAQs for arrival on the Health Services Website, and to send any specific questions to [email protected]