Upcoming masking changes, COVID FAQs
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This message covers:
- Additional information about the campus masking order
- Key resources
Dear students, faculty and staff,
We announced last week that the campus mask mandate will expire at the start of spring recess, March 12, 2022, following similar decisions by Public Health Madison and Dane County, UW System and many other campuses and public health entities around the country.
Although masks will no longer be required, you may choose to continue wearing a well-fitting mask. The university will continue to make high-quality masks available to our community free of charge. We know the virus that causes COVID-19 will continue to circulate, like other respiratory viruses, and will continue to evolve. At this phase of the pandemic, we can choose to wear masks for our health.
Campus will host two upcoming forums to discuss the change to our masking policy and what to expect in this next phase of the pandemic. The first will take place on Thursday, Feb. 24, at noon. You can find more information and submit questions here: https://www.uhs.wisc.edu/february-24-forum/.
Another session will be offered in early March. Both will stream on YouTube at this link: https://go.wisc.edu/spring22.
Here are some of the most common questions about the decision:
Why is the mask requirement expiring?
When COVID-19 first appeared in 2020, our immune systems were naïve to the virus. Now, we have the tools to protect ourselves without community-wide measures, and with a combination of vaccination and prior infection, the level of community immunity is significant.
We have a highly vaccinated community. Evidence shows that people who are vaccinated and boosted have a high degree of protection from serious illness and hospitalization. The choice to also wear a high-quality mask offers a higher degree of personal protection.
While this does not mean the pandemic is over, it’s a sign we can be confident in the steps we have taken so far, and the personal decisions we can make to protect ourselves and one another.
Since the peak of the omicron surge, COVID-19 cases and, most importantly hospitalizations, have significantly declined. Our campus data reflects this same case decline, and we expect to see continued reductions in the coming weeks. Some of the nation’s top health officials have shifted their focus away from cases to focusing on hospitalizations.
PHMDC’s mask mandate will expire on March 1, and several communities and academic institutions across the U.S. are also lifting their masking requirements. The end of the campus mask requirement on March 12 allows time for our campus population to transition.
How can I make sure I am as protected as possible?
Campus continues to offer and encourage no-cost vaccination and boosters to those who are eligible. Find more information, including how to share your booster records with University Health Services, by visiting go.wisc.edu/covid19vaccine.
You may decide to continue wearing a high-quality mask as an additional layer of protection and we encourage those who want to continue to wear masks to do so. Please respect everyone’s individual choices about masking.
Do I remain protected if people around me aren’t wearing masks?
Yes. Especially when layered upon the protection offered by vaccines, masks protect the wearer, even when others around them make different choices.
Where will masks still be required?
Masks will continue to be required for Madison Metro bus riders, by federal order. Clinical and health care, childcare, and food preparation settings may continue to require masks.
Instructors may choose to wear masks in the classroom and may also suggest students in their classes wear masks. Instructors and staff interacting with others may choose to wear masks and may also suggest others wear masks in shared spaces, including classrooms. But given the current phase of the pandemic, instructors and other staff may no longer require it, and should neither reward nor penalize students or others for their decisions about mask wearing.
How can we protect the most vulnerable people in our campus community?
Everyone who is able should stay up to date on their vaccinations and may also choose to wear a high-quality mask to lower their risks. Having conversations with those around you may also encourage them to wear masks.
To discuss accommodations, employees should contact their Divisional Disability Representative and students should contact the McBurney Disability Resource Center. We also encourage you to discuss your risks with your health care provider.
As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, we will continue to monitor both on-campus and local health data daily. We may make different decisions about campus mask policies if data indicate in the future.
Will unvaccinated students and employees need to continue weekly PCR testing?
Yes. There are no changes in mandatory testing requirements at this time for unvaccinated students and employees.
Should I continue to stay home if I have symptoms?
It remains important to monitor yourself daily for COVID-19 symptoms, stay home if they develop and get tested. Isolate if you test positive. At-home antigen tests remain available for pickup at no cost on campus and PCR tests are available by appointment in MyUHS.
• Get boosted: If you’re eligible for a booster and have not yet received one, make an appointment today at UHS.
• Then let us know about it: If you got your booster at UHS or gave UHS permission to access your Wisconsin Immunization Record, you don’t need to take any additional action. Otherwise, please share your record by using the authorization form or uploading it to MyUHS.
• Can’t find the info you need? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (608) 262-7777.