Cape Breton University and its faculty at odds over mask use

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Cape Breton University says it is committed to the health, safety and well-being of the university community. (CBC - image credit)
Cape Breton University says it is committed to the health, safety and well-being of the university community. (CBC - image credit)

The faculty association at Cape Breton University wants the school to implement a mask mandate, but the university says wearing masks will remain optional.

The university is one of a few Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions not requiring masks. However, CBU is strongly encouraging mask use.

Peter MacIntyre, a spokesperson for the Cape Breton University Faculty Association, says the university should require masking.

"Cape Breton University is growing," he said. "We're expanding and we're welcoming people from all over the world, which means that if there's a time to be cautious, this would be a time to be cautious."

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, recommends masking in crowded indoor spaces, including schools. He said the province is in the seventh wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but said indicators point to the wave beginning to decline.

CBC
CBC

In a statement, CBU spokesperson Lenore Parsley said the university continues to educate people on the importance of staying home when they are sick, getting vaccinated and testing for COVID-19 when people have symptoms.

She said test kits will be available on campus, in-person testing is being re-established, and the university will also make masks and hand sanitizer available.

"By ensuring these practices become the standard CBU way, we will continue to protect each other," Parsley wrote. "As always, we will continue to monitor the situation carefully, and are prepared to pivot should the need arise."

MacIntyre disagrees with the university's approach to shift the focus to individuals to protect themselves.

"We've seen slower uptakes of vaccines and boosters in recent months, so it seems to be a time of increasing risk," he said.

"And when you bring this many people together on campus at the same time, it seems to be a time where you might want to exercise a little bit more caution at the group level, rather than just shift the burden to individuals."

The CBU faculty association's more than 180 members include university professors, librarians and lab instructors.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/The Associated Press
Marcio Jose Sanchez/The Associated Press

MacIntyre said it's not just the people at the school who are affected by the decision, it's also their family members.

"The question is, can we protect the rest of the people in our lives?" he said.

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