UC Berkeley advises students to stay indoors, provides limited number of masks

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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In an email sent to students Friday, campus officials advised students to remain indoors because of unhealthy air quality, adding that the Tang Center will only be providing its limited number of masks to those with underlying medical conditions.

Clinical staff at the Tang Center are providing a limited supply of masks to those with asthma, heart disease or other respiratory diseases — who are at “high risk” of health effects from the poor air quality, according to the email sent by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton and Tang Center interim Assistant Vice Chancellor Anna Harte.

The ASUC Senate is handing out 2,000 masks on Sproul Plaza and at North Gate on Friday, according to the email. But in their email, Sutton and Harte raised concerns about the efficacy of unfitted N-95 masks. They stated that while the masks filter out some particulate matter, they do not protect against “harmful chemicals” in smoke.

“We are working with the ASUC Senate to distribute masks and have committed funds to them in partnership but we strongly encourage students to consult a medical professional about the benefits and risks of wearing a mask and to make sure their masks fit properly,” Sutton and Harte said in their email.

The air quality in Northern California has been ranked among the worst in the world. Chancellor Carol Christ canceled classes for Thursday evening and all of Friday after days of community backlash. The Lawrence Hall of Science and the UC Botanical Garden also decided to shut down because of the poor air quality.

ASUC President Alexander Wilfert expressed disappointment in the campus’s response to the air quality in Berkeley, stating in a Facebook post that classes should have been canceled sooner and masks — along with information about how to properly use them — should have been distributed.

“Maybe if you had cancelled class in the first place without having us fight to do so, we could have all stayed inside instead of having to rely on masks,” Wilfert said in his Facebook post. “Accept you made a mistake and support the people who are actually trying to help students instead of making it more difficult.”

Danielle Kaye is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @danielledkaye.