TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — High-grade masks for higher education. Several universities in Maryland announced a KN95 mask requirement as the omicron COVID-19 variant rages on, filling hospitals and emptying some classrooms.

The announcements come days away from the starts of the Spring semester. Johns Hopkins University is requiring everyone on campus to wear a KN95 or N95 mask, or two surgical masks.

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Towson University and the University of Maryland announced they are requiring KN95 masks in all classroom settings. The schools already require masks in all indoor locations, but encourage KN95 use in all settings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week updated its mask guidance to note that N95 and KN95 masks offer higher levels of protection against COVID-19 than cloth masks, although it stopped short of recommending that everyone wear them.

While the safety measures are welcome, some students say some of the other protocols are hurting their college experience.

Rebecca, a senior at Hopkins, said it’s a better alternative to virtual learning.

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“Being virtual, I thought it was fine, but I realize the second I got back into the classroom it was really good for me for my ability to focus,” she said. 

“[It’s] absolutely the right idea,” said Owen, a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University. But his support of the guidance doesn’t stretch to the school’s dining options, which are currently grab-and-go. Students are prohibited from dining inside as a group.

“I’m missing out on the classic college experience of sitting in a dining hall together or having friends over in the evening and studying in your dorm,” Owen said. 

Loyola University on Wednesday strongly recommended the use of KN95 masks. The university will distribute two KN95 masks to each student and employee, the school said.

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When it comes to the booster shot – all of the schools are requiring their students, faculty and staff to get the jab, with a deadline on or before February 1.

Annie Rose Ramos