Following new guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fully vaccinated students at Binghamton University can now gather outdoors in small group settings without a mask.

On April 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its COVID-19 mask guidelines to allow individuals who are fully vaccinated to gather or conduct outdoor activities without a mask except in certain crowded settings, venues and events. SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced these new mask guidelines will be implemented on all SUNY campuses immediately. Masks will still be required for students and staff in all indoor settings with social distancing. Students who are not vaccinated yet will still be required to wear a mask at all times on campus except when they are in their own room, eating meals socially distanced or when they are by themselves.

As a result of the updated changes, BU will be adjusting its protocol accordingly. The new protocol will be used for the remainder of the spring semester and BU’s summer session. Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations at BU, said he is hopeful about these changes and is optimistic about the upcoming fall semester.

“The past year has been challenging for us all, and we’re happy to be on the path to ‘normal,’” Yarosh wrote in an email. “This fall, students will get to experience BU the way it’s supposed to be — in person, with challenging classes, face-to-face interactions with top-ranked faculty and a campus social life that develops leadership and friendships as well. We cannot wait to get started.”

According to Yarosh, the University will continue to encourage all students and staff to get vaccinated in the local area given the large supply of vaccines. In a recent survey conducted by BU of approximately 7,000 students, over 80 percent reported that they have been or are in the process of getting vaccinated. Yarosh said that as students continue to get vaccinated and COVID-19 infection rates decrease, BU will likely be able to lift more COVID-19-related restrictions for the upcoming fall semester.

Kenny Bernstein, a sophomore majoring in business administration, supports the changes BU is making.

“I am happy that outdoor clubs and activities will allow vaccinated people to attend without masks,” Bernstein said. “Things are finally starting to feel normal again, but we must remain cautious. I still think we can all be happy the pandemic is beginning to end. I look forward to hanging with my friends outside maskless at BU and potentially attending events in my living community.”

Donovan Kearney, a sophomore majoring in business administration, believes that these changes will lead to a more lively campus for the remainder of the semester.

“I think that the new mask guidelines are exactly what BU needed and what students were ready for,” Kearney said. “So many people are getting vaccinated and the whole idea of getting vaccinated was so life could return to normalcy. With the nicer weather coming around, it will be a relief to stop worrying about wearing masks outside on campus.”

As of May 5, all classes at BU will be held in person and on campus for the fall semester. Jared Mogul, a junior majoring in accounting, is looking forward to the upcoming fall semester and taking in-person classes.

“This is a great first step toward a return of normalcy,” Mogul said. “With the increased amount of access to vaccines and lower positive tests among students, BU will likely be able to have a more ‘normal’ fall semester. I am looking forward to it given it will be my senior year at BU.”