UC Davis Mask Mandate Lifted, Varied Opinion Amongst Campus Population

3 medical masks laying on top of each other on a grey surface
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

By Ramandeep Authi and Ramneet Singh


DAVIS, CA – The University of California, Davis lifted its mask mandate on March 19 and the university’s optimistic view is coming up against student pushback. 


From March 19 onwards, the University of California, Davis stated that the mask mandate would no longer be enforced in accordance with state and nationwide standards. This mainly focused on indoor activity, but not in areas such as public transport. 


From that same article, the university argued that “masks are still strongly recommended by our public health officials.”


In the letter “Checking In With Chancellor May: Brighter Days,” UC Davis Chancellor Gary May expressed hope about the school’s spring quarter. He still noted the need to be cautious and set guidelines for issues as they come up. 


According to campus data, May stated that “our positivity rate is less than one-tenth of 1% (0.08% to be exact).” Similar to the other statement, he advocated for masks. 


May’s statement also covered topics such as COVID testing regulations and “academic flexibility” related to grading. 


In the month of March up until the 19th, when the mask mandate was lifted, Yolo county had 446 new cases. In California the rate of new cases in March up until the 19th was 84,135


Spring quarter started on March 28 and there already is some student pushback to not just the mask mandate, but the full return to in-person teaching.


In their “Demands for April Accessibility Protest,” multiple student organizations argued that “UC Davis’s insistence on in-person instruction poses a direct threat to the health and safety of immunocompromised people, disabled people, the unvaccinated, children, and those who live with people from any of these groups.”


The letter gives a list of demands that includes hybrid learning, which entails things such as technological improvements, a return of the mask mandate, and more.


Towards the end of the statement, the proposed solution would help “mitigate discrimination,” would be able to adapt to changing circumstances, and would be within the bounds of possibility given the available resources among other things. 


The student organizations who signed this are the Davis Socialist Association, UC Davis Cops Off Campus, Students for Reproductive Freedom at UC Davis, and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) Local 143.


The Davis Vanguard Club was able to obtain statements from campus members on their thoughts about the mandate being lifted.


Similar to the student organizations, one respondent was critical of the University’s actions, but more focused on the question of the mask mandate.


Teaching Assistant Daniel Fonseca stated, “I feel like it was a failure on UC Davis’ part to actually take into consideration the different health statuses and different basically conditions that students come with.”


Pointing to alternative solutions, Fonseca argued that “I felt like instead of lifting the mask mandate, they should have got rid of the COVID testing because that’s a lot more hindersome than the actual masks are themselves.”


Fonseca noted that “I know there are a lot of times where people say I can’t breathe with the mask…if you change that mask that you’re wearing, it’s a lot easier to breathe.”


Fonseca concluded with his belief of administrative failure.


Conversely, one respondent believed that the University has handled things relatively well.


Another fourth year at UC Davis stated that they “think that UC Davis has done an excellent job with their mask mandate policies.” 


They mentioned that “worldwide too, cases aren’t as high as they were, we are at the downward of this pandemic, so I think it was a good time to lift the mask mandates.” However they did state that they “know that a lot of people are not comfortable with having their masks off in class so we can still have them on in class.” 


This student stated that they personally wear their mask in class because “it feels a little bit safer in a closed room with not very good ventilation.”


In terms of UC Davis policies that have been implemented during this pandemic this student voiced their support for the university by stating that they “believe that with changes in COVID, COVID rates and how this pandemic is going, they’ll do a good job at adjusting to our policies we have at Davis.”


One key policy that this student brought to attention was the mask mandate being kept on for the Unitrans bus system and they feel that it is “really smart since it’s a confined space and you know, really close to strangers.”

The next respondent had support for the mask mandate.


Student Timothy Gibbs understood the mask mandate to not be “completely necessary at this time” due to current statistics. He followed that by saying “I do think that it’s important to keep the mask on still, the mask mandate still” despite the beliefs of other people.


Gibbs noted that “I think that it’s still important to preserve the safety of everybody else…I think that’s why, mainly to protect people that are more vulnerable to it.”


Gibbs stated “even if COVID is declining in popularity, doesn’t mean that it’s gone away just because we want it to go away, right?”


Gibbs concluded with “I do think that the mask mandate is still necessary for large groups, like our campus…classrooms are very tight…”


The last respondent gave a more balanced answer.


A fourth year UC Davis student said that “I’m a firm believer that people should do as they wish as long as they are not harming anyone else but with this situation people who decide not to wear masks could potentially be harming other people.”


This student also mentioned that they’ve heard “research that places that did not enforce mask mandates still had similar rates of being contagious.” They are concerned about the quality of the masks.


This person went on to say that “If we are going to be enforcing masks then we should be doing it with high-tech masks that we should provide to people.” They personally themselves choose to wear a mask. 


However this person did state that people should not be forced to wear masks but that they would “feel better about highly encouraging them to wear masks instead of mandating them.” They feel that this issue is “highly conflicting because it puts others at risk.” 


They did go on further to state that “for those who feel uncomfortable wearing it, it’s only for a limited time, when you’re at UC Davis indoors.” However this student feels that information could be much more straightforward.



About The Author

Jordan Varney received a masters from UC Davis in Psychology and a B.S. in Computer Science from Harvey Mudd. Varney is editor in chief of the Vanguard at UC Davis.

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      1. Ron Oertel

        Are their meetings open to the public?  If so, I’d like to possibly attend.  🙂

        I’m also interested in joining any local YIMBY groups. (I figure those are sometimes the same people, as well.)

  1. Alan Miller

    I was on campus Sunday at an outdoor event that had about 75 students.  About half were wearing masks.  Outdoors.  All kinds of masks.

    In these statements by the University and in the entire article, no mention of the difference between mask types — this despite the fact that the difference in protection from the virus is orders of magnitude.  In entities not distinguishing between cloth, surgical, and N-95, it is clear the entire conversation is lost and all of this is F-ing joke.

    Let’s say you ram your car into a tree at 45 mph.  A cloth mask is like having a kid’s balloon protecting you, a surgical mask is like having an air bag protecting you, and an N-95 is like having a race-car roll-cage protecting you.

    But it’s all the same to the University, Unitrans, etc.  Why bother with reality?  Next time you have sex with a stranger, use a prophylactic that’s been drying in the sun un-packaged for a few months, or carve one out of a car tire.  Same as a new prophylactic, right?



  2. Alan Miller

    Davis Socialist Association, UC Davis Cops Off Campus, Students for Reproductive Freedom at UC Davis, and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) Local 143

    I would say there is a unifying theme amongst these clubs calling for a continuation of the mask mandate 😐

    And really, “UC Davis Cops Off Campus” ???   I was baffled by this one — like the UC Davis Police off campus, having a beer?  Bowling?  I had to read this with a different cadence several times until I finally got what the meaning of this organization was.

  3. Alan Miller

    I find it strange that students are complaining about UC Davis lifting the mask mandate.  UC Davis has almost certainly been the leader in the nation if not the world in keeping Covid-19 in check with masks, on-line learning, Healthy Davis Together testing, isolation policies.  N-95 and P-100 helps greatly to protect you from others, and vaccination helps, too.  At some point we coming out of this pandemic we have to look out for ourselves, and society, even here in Davis, is clearly DONE with the pandemic, good idea or not.

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