More lax indoor mask policy to take effect next week


A banner reading Face Masks required hangs next to an El Camino College banner on the gates blocking of construction located next to the library on Monday, May 16. Starting next week masks will be optional for many indoor locations at the school. The Union | Delfino Camacho.

The mask mandate policy at El Camino College will be reducing its restrictions starting Monday, May 23.

Masks will only be required inside classrooms, lecture halls, auditoriums and the Student Health Center per an email sent from the Office of Marketing and Communications on Monday, March 16.

The new policy states that apart from the specified spots all other indoor locations on campus will be mask optional.

Biology Professor and Task Force member Darcie McClelland said the revised mask mandate was finalized by the El Camino College COVID Task Force on Friday, May 13 during a Task Force meeting.

The changes are a departure from El Camino Colleges’ former mask mandate which was last updated on March 29.

The earlier update kept masks mandatory for all indoor campus locations, with the Library/Learning Resource Center and indoor sporting events as the only two exceptions.

Director of Public Information Kerri Webb said that during meetings, some Task Force members themselves asked questions about whether the reduction in COVID-19 cases warranted lessening some of the stricter mandates in keeping with the official L.A. county mask mandate.

As of this publication date, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health strongly recommends masks in public schools grades K-12 but does not enforce a mandate.

In April, El Camino College sent out a mask protocol survey via email to all students, faculty and staff.

“We decided instead of us just making an overarching decision, let’s ask the kids what they want. So we created that survey, we sent it out and we saw what the people wanted,” Webb said.

The survey asked participants to choose between three options, whether the mask mandate should be required, optional or if they do not care.

McClelland was one of the Task Force members who vocalized their concern for the lack of student input when it came to masking mandates and therefore followed the survey results closely.

The polls for the El Camino College Mask Protocol survey closed on Friday, April 29 at 4 p.m.

McClelland shared the survey results (enclosed below) with The Union but also explained that these were recorded a few hours before the deadline so while the exact count might be off, the overall percentages remain consistent:

Students surveyed: 1,935

Of that total:

  • 60.41% said they wanted masks optional.
  • 44.11% said they wanted masks required.
  • 5.4% said they did not care.

Faculty surveyed: 341

Of that total:

  • 59.24% said they wanted masks optional.
  • 37.54% said they wanted masks required.
  • 3.23% said they did not care.

Staff surveyed: 678

Of that number:

  • 55.6% said they wanted masks optional.
  • 41% said they wanted masks required.
  • 3.54% said they did not care.

“It wasn’t even close. Folks want the masks off. So that really was what prompted us to kind of move up the transitional phasing,” Webb said.

With only four weeks left in this semester, Webb says some Task Force members debated changing the policy at all and just “finishing out” the spring semester.

“But the results of the survey showed that the majority of people were in favor of lifting the masks so we decided to kind of do a bit of a soft transition, to get people to start to feel comfortable not having their masks on,” Webb said.

Maria Vicente, a 54-year-old custodian who has been working at El Camino for 17 years, was aware of the survey and voted to keep masks required but said she is fine with the new optional policy as well.

“I’m going to keep wearing mine, but if others don’t that’s their right. But they will be at greater risk,” Vicente said.

Sisters and students Sofia, 19, and Namira,16, Bentaya prefer to go maskless when walking outside and are happy with the new indoor policy, but also said they would have no issues going back to mask indoors if cases rose again.

Nursing student Richard Reyes, 18, was unaware of the survey but said if he had an option he would have voted to keep masks required.

“I mean COVID is not over, so I feel that the masks are still necessary. I mean it’s not like there was an official announcement that the pandemic was over,” Reyes said

Tako Okuno, 29, another nursing student, thinks the optional mandate is good and that it should be a personal choice. Okuno considers himself very “green” and said trash from discarded masks was an unforeseen issue.

McClelland said she respects the decision made by the Task Force because it was based on data.

“I’m just glad that the college took the responsibility to put up a survey,” McClelland said. “I think it’s always important when making a decision of this magnitude that affects a lot of people that we make sure that we’re carefully collecting data, then we draw conclusions based on data. So I’m happy with the process.”

Editor’s Notes:

  • Word “service” was changed to “survey” due to a mistake on May 17, 2022.
  • Updated story to provide accuracy on May 19, 2022 at 10:43 a.m.