UNCW reinforces mask mandate


Veronica Wernicke, News Editor

Despite reports from Port City Daily and WWAY news, UNC Wilmington has not tightened their coronavirus (COVID-19) mask mandate. Instead, they have reinforced and clarified information regarding when people on campus must wear their masks.  

Following these reports, the university pushed out a message on their Instagram clarifying the requirements for wearing masks on campus. Newley printed signs on campus as well as the Instagram post reiterates that masks must be worn at all times while on campus, both inside and outside. The only expectations for this rule are when someone is alone outdoors, eating or alone in their room or office. 

A screenshot of the Instagram post UNCW posted of their new signage regarding masks requirements on campus. (Veronica Wernicke)

“All we did was we really refined the message,” said Katrin Wesner, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. “In the beginning, if you look at the Best for the Nest Website, it talks about wearing your face covering when you’re in transit and when you’re with others. The only time that you don’t have to wear a face-covering is when you’re alone in your room and your office and there’s a mention of when you’re outside. What we found was that over time, that we needed to sort of give a little more description. 

So let’s use eating for example. So not only in wag did we see this but I saw this in restaurants, that someone would literally walk in the door of a restaurant or wag, take their face covering off get their food, sit down, eat, chat, go to the bathroom, wash their hands, do all this stuff and their face-covering comes on when they go back out of the facility.

What the intent of taking your face cover off for eating is that you keep it on when you’re moving around the restaurant or the dining facility, if you get up to the bathroom, if you get up to go through the line and get more food that your face covering goes back on, but that really you take it off for just for eating. And if say that we all go out to dinner, we’re seated, you know, nicely apart, we take our face coming off, we eat but afterward, we stay and chat for an hour, we put our face coverings back on while we’re having that chat.”

Wesner noted this was also a commonality in shared spaces on campus like common rooms in dorms and lobbies and break rooms in buildings and offices.

“We just wanted to remind them like while you’re in your office, I’m in here for hours a day, I don’t need my face covering, but when someone comes to the door, I need to remember to put it on,” said Wesner. “So it’s more a sort of reminder and refinements as opposed to brand new stuff.”

However, not all students received an email regarding this more specific push out of information. According to Andrea Weaver, Interim Chief Communications Officer for UNCW Office of University Relations, this message was only pushed out to residential students. 

Wesner also said that in recent meetings with around 200 residential hall students and an upcoming all Greek members Zoom meeting this information was mentioned.

Previous on-campus signs regarding masks were teal and only read “face coverings or masks required.”

One of the previous signs indicating face masks must been worn on campus. (Zachary Kilby)

“We can all agree there are signs everywhere, right,” said Wesner. “Sometimes people get used to those signs and sometimes people get used to those messages. You’ll notice this sign is blue instead of teal. It’s still in the family of colors still matches everything, but it’s designed to be just a little bit different so that it stands out.

So it’s common when you do marketing campaigns that need to extend for a length of time that you tweak the message slightly, that you focus on a different thing, that you change the color, that you move at the sign around those kinds of things. So again, it’s not new information. It’s just, hey, don’t forget.”

Alongside this clarified mask mandate messaging, the university also announced two new efforts to reward students regularly wearing masks on campus — Mask Spotter Monday and Teal Mask Tuesday.

In an email sent out to students on Sept. 21, UNCW detailed these new efforts in partnership with Housing and Residence Life, Campus Dining and the Student Health Center. 

“Each week, on Mask Spotter Monday and Teal Mask Tuesday, Housing’s student marketing assistants will traverse campus to give out prizes, including Chick-fil-A and Panda Express coupons, to students who are spotted wearing their masks,” the email stated. “At other times, peer educators from the Student Health Center will circulate around campus to give mask-wearing students hand sanitizer, stickers and other prizes. We appreciate everyone’s help in keeping our campus safe and we want to offer a few incentives and rewards, so we keep it up and stay healthy!”

These announcements come as UNCW has seen a decline in the number of positive COVID-19  cases, in comparison to previous weeks which saw a rise. As of Sept. 23, 193 students, nine faculty and staff and one contractor have active positive COVID-19 cases. 

Since July 445 students, 12 faculty and staff and one contractor have tested positive for COVID-19. Updated numbers regarding UNCW’s COVID-19 cases can be found on their data dashboard website.

Students, faculty and staff are also reminded to continue following the three w’s — wearing a face mask, waiting six feet apart and washing your hands frequently.