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Changes to campus masking policy

August 3, 2021

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This message covers:

  • Masking update
  • Vaccination update
  • COVID-19 testing

Dear faculty and staff,

The recent arrival in the U.S. of the more infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 has led to a steep rise in cases across the country, including here in Wisconsin. Vaccination rates in Dane County and on campus are higher than in other parts of the state and U.S. and this has helped limit the impact of the Delta variant. However, the virus continues to spread rapidly among unvaccinated people, which has contributed to an uptick in cases.

Accordingly, effective Thursday, August 5, all students, employees and visitors to campus will be required to wear masks when inside campus buildings.


  • Residence halls: Masks may be removed inside your own room when only you and roommates are present but should be worn in all common spaces
  • Work spaces: Masks may be removed if you are working alone inside an office or lab with the door closed
  • Meals: Masks may be removed while actively eating and drinking but should be promptly put back on when finished
  • Outdoor spaces: Masks are not required, but may be worn if you wish, on the Terrace and other outdoor spaces adjacent to buildings
  • Vehicles: Masks should continue to be worn on Madison Metro buses and should be worn in campus vehicles when two or more people are present
  • Read the chancellor’s order on masks

We will continue to monitor COVID-19 transmission rates on campus and in the community and will revisit our mask policies as the public health situation warrants.  Note that this does not impact our policies or plans regarding in-person classes, return to work on campus, events, physical spacing, etc.

Going back to masking is not a step that many of us wanted to take, but it is important to protect the health of those on our campus and in our community.

Vaccination is your best protection.  Most people vaccinated against COVID-19 will not get the virus, but some will experience breakthrough infections. This is reflected in new research from UW–Madison and PHMDC that shows, since the rise of the Delta variant, some vaccinated people carry similar amounts of virus in their nasal passages as unvaccinated people.

Vaccinated people remain highly protected from the most severe outcomes of the disease and they are far less likely to become infected, however some vaccinated people with COVID-19 may be capable of passing the virus to others. Masks are a remarkably simple and effective tool to help us limit that risk.

We are particularly concerned about the next two months, when many of our students will arrive on campus from across the U.S. and around the world. We want to continue to keep infection rates as low as possible in our community.  Recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Public Health Madison & Dane County advise that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks when spending time indoors with people who live outside their household.  Given that we have students arriving from many destinations, we believe that requiring masks is the prudent thing to do.  Our public health experts here at UW agree with this decision.

We urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible; this is the most effective way to limit the ability of the virus to spread, allowing us to ease restrictions sooner.

Vaccination update

University Health Services continues to offer free COVID-19 vaccines to all students and employees at 333 East Campus Mall. Schedule an appointment or drop in Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 pm. The site is closed during the noon hour.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and free. Especially in combination with other public health measures, vaccination is the best way to avoid the worst outcomes of COVID-19 and to limit your chances of spreading the virus to others.

If you are vaccinated, or get vaccinated soon, let UHS know to help inform campus public health policies. (If you were vaccinated at UHS, you do not need to take additional action.)

So far, thanks to those who have shared their records, we know that more than 80% of our employees have been vaccinated. We continue to encourage those who have not reported their vaccination record to do so. We will have better information about student vaccination rates later in August, but we expect at least 80% or more of our students will be vaccinated. A recent survey of incoming freshmen who will be living in the residence halls indicated that we will be well over a 90% vaccination rate among this population.

Please encourage people you know to get vaccinated. Here are resources to help you navigate some of these conversations.

COVID-19 testing

Campus continues to offer no-cost testing to employees and students at multiple locations. Check the COVID-19 testing website for the latest information on sites and hours of operation.

  • On August 5, drop-in testing will end and the Safer Badgers app will no longer be in use. Beginning August 9, testing will be by appointment through the MyUHS app or the MyUHS web portal During the transition on August 6, individuals with COVID-19 symptoms can get tested at UHS by calling 608-265-5600.
  • You can download the myUHS app for easy access to testing appointments, vaccination, your testing history and more.

For employees looking for more information about what to expect, we will hold an all-employee town hall at noon on Thursday, August 12.

Also on August 12 at 1:30 p.m., we will hold an instructor town hall to discuss questions about teaching this semester.

We will continue to closely monitor data regarding transmission rates, evaluate guidance from the CDC, collaborate with PHMDC, and regularly consult with campus experts. And, as always, we will keep you updated.