WINTERVILLE, N.C. — Starting March 7, students, employees and visitors to the Pitt Community College campus will have the option of whether or not they wear a facial mask inside campus facilities. 

During a recent meeting, PCC administrators decided to drop the college’s mask mandate, which had been in place as a COVID-19 safety measure since the pandemic spread worldwide in March 2020. The change comes after Gov. Roy Cooper encouraged municipalities and public schools to end their mask mandates. 

“Based on the metrics we’ve been tracking and conversations with our state and local officials, we feel it’s safe to give individuals the option with regard to wearing face masks while indoors on campus,” said PCC Vice President of Administrative Services Rick Owens. “The number of COVID-19 cases on campus and in the community has decreased almost as quickly as it spiked after the Omicron variant hit our region. While it isn’t as fast a recovery as we hoped, moving to a mask optional policy is one step closer in getting us back to normal.” 

The number of reported COVID cases at PCC was practically nil during the fall but rose sharply during the holiday break and continued doing so through the end of January. Prior to leaving for break, there were eight positive cases reported on campus for the month of December. The number jumped to 73 cases for the period between Dec. 26 and Jan. 8 and soared to 123 cases between Jan. 23-29. 

Since Jan. 30, the number of reported PCC COVID cases has been on the decline. There were 35 cases reported between Jan. 30 and Feb. 5, and the most recent period measured, Feb. 20-26, showed five cases. Since Sept. 1, 2021, there have been 541 reported COVID cases at the college. 

Owens said PCC’s leadership team would continue monitoring the pandemic and remain in contact with public health officials to ensure the PCC campus community remains as safe as possible. 

   “While ending the mask mandate is a step in the right direction, we still ask anyone who is feeling sick to stay home and get tested,” Owens said. “Individuals who are symptomatic and/or test positive should continue to follow PCC’s guidelines for isolation and returning to campus.”