Atlanta college lifts temporary mask mandate that sparked off-campus outcry

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Morris Brown College is no longer requiring students and faculty to mask up, though the private Atlanta school will continue other COVID-19 safety measures.

The small, historically Black college drew sharp criticism from outside campus after it announced Aug. 20 that it would reinstate a mask mandate for two weeks amid a rise in COVID cases on nearby campuses. One of the loudest voices to denounce the temporary mask requirement came from conservative North Georgia, far from the school on Atlanta’s Westside.

“Americans have had enough COVID hysteria. WE WILL NOT COMPLY!” wrote U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican, in social media posts that garnered more than 17,000 likes.

On Friday, Morris Brown notified students, faculty and staff that it is lifting the mandate, but added “we maintain an unwavering commitment to upholding a secure environment for all.”

Ongoing safety measures include temperature checks for those who enter campus, contact tracing and an expectation that those who test positive isolate and quarantine according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. The college also requested that those on campus wash their hands regularly to help prevent transmission.

“Ensuring the safety and well-being of our Morris Brown College community remains paramount to this administration,” said the campus letter, which President Kevin James shared Wednesday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

James previously said that the school implemented the temporary mask rules soon after the start of the school year because of reports of COVID cases within the Atlanta University Center, which includes nearby Morehouse and Spelman colleges, Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse School of Medicine.

COVID cases have increased in Georgia in August, though the number of hospital admissions remains lower than a year ago.