To mask or not to mask? That is the question El Camino College is pondering


Packages of masks placed in faculty mailboxes in the Humanities Building on Wednesday, Aug. 31. Masks are mandated in classrooms, lecture halls, auditoriums and labs as outlined in the class syllabus from a June 2022 update to El Camino’s mask policy. (Ethan Cohen | The Union)

Masks at El Camino College continue to be mandated per the class syllabus until further notice, deviating from the current COVID-19 guidelines set by Los Angeles County and the CDC.

El Camino College’s COVID-19 mask policy, updated on June 20, states that masks are required for specific areas on campus like classrooms, lecture halls, auditoriums and labs based on the class syllabus, according to its website.

Other local colleges such as Cerritos College, Long Beach City College and Riverside City College rescinded their masking policies.

Director of Public Information and Government Relations, Kerri Webb, said that El Camino deviated from Los Angeles County and CDC guidelines for campus safety.

“We wanted to make sure that we were in that safe bubble,” Webb said. “The Task Force figured that it would be better to err on the side of safety.”

Webb said that El Camino’s mask policy did not have an effect on in-person enrollment at the college.

“It’s a nationwide trend,” Webb said, “It’s not even just the community colleges. A lot of students got jobs once the world started to open back up. [Businesses] were hungry for employees.”

This banner on the construction fence in between the library and the music building still remains on Sept. 7, 2022. Even though face masks are required in some areas on campus, most areas now are highly recommended and based on teacher discretion.
A banner on the construction fence near the Library on Sept. 7. Face masks are mandated in classrooms, lecture halls, auditoriums and labs based on the class syllabus while in other locations such as sporting events they are highly recommended. (Anthony Lipari | The Union)

El Camino Police Department Chief, Michael Trevis, a member of the college’s COVID-19 Task Force said the decision to keep masks mandated on campus was based on campus surveys.

“There have been surveys of how the campus community felt about the issue of masks,” Trevis said. “Regular employees felt ‘hey, I feel comfortable wearing my mask,’ others said ‘hey, you know what, I don’t think I need to wear the mask.’”

The discussion over the mask mandates at El Camino began as early as the winter semester and continued to be discussed through the current semester.

“After a lot of discussion over several meetings, this thing has been going on for a little while,” Trevis said.

While the mask policies are in place at El Camino, many local schools differ from the policies such as Cerritos College.

According to Cerritos College’s website, “face coverings (masks) are optional for indoor settings. However, face coverings are strongly recommended to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.”

Long Beach City College and Riverside City College have both removed their mask requirements as well.

Some colleges, however, still mandate them like Santa Monica College from a statement on Aug. 7.

While other colleges have had varied reactions to the slowing spread of COVID-19, students and faculty from the El Camino community have shared differing viewpoints.

Sign language interpreter, Pamela Ashe, who lives in Hermosa Beach, gave her thoughts on the mask policy explaining how they affect her at El Camino.

“I’m sick to death of them, just saying,” Ashe said. “I work in other school districts who don’t have to wear them.”

Ashe said the requirement of masks in her classroom complicates things with the students she aids.

“It’s particularly tough in my field because we depend on lip reading,” Ashe said. “Not all deaf people necessarily read lips but many do and it helps. I read their lips and it helps when we’re signing to each other.”

Pamela Ashe, a sign language interpreter who lives in Hermosa Beach, says that she&squot;s "sick to death of [masks]" when asked about them on Aug. 31, 2022.
Pamela Ashe, a sign language interpreter from Hermosa Beach, explains that the masks make her job harder when trying to communicate with students. She said that she is “sick to death of them.” (Ethan Cohen | The Union)
Jayden Muhia, 20, a computer information systems major, said that he does not mind the mask policies at the college.

“One of the counselors told me to wear a mask,” Muhia said. “He had a problem with it and I just wanted to help him help me.”

Muhia also said that the choice should be left up to those to make a decision for themselves.

“I don’t really mind it,” Muhia said. “I mean if you don’t want to wear it, don’t wear it. If you want to wear it, wear one.”