Moving Toward a Mask-Optional Policy
Moving Toward a Mask-Optional Policy
Dear members of the UCCS community,
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve looked to the UCCS mission, vision and values to make decisions about how we respond to the spread of COVID-19. Our most important priorities are making sure our students can be successful, and safeguarding the health and wellbeing of every member of our campus community. Every decision we have made since March 2020 has stemmed from these two priorities, together with strong guidance from the CDC and El Paso County Public Health. Now, we have new information to consider.
The CDC has released updated masking guidance, which recommends indoor masking in areas of “high risk” and mask-optional policies in areas where risk is “medium and low.”
In addition, on Friday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced that Colorado is now in an endemic rather than a pandemic. He invited everyone who is fully vaccinated to “live life normally.” These announcements, together with a continued and significant decline in COVID-19 cases, test positivity and hospitalization rates locally and across the state, mean that our reality has changed. In turn, so should our policies.
Earlier today, I met with our Cabinet members and shared governance leaders to decide on the future course of action. Effective Monday, March 7, UCCS will make face coverings optional both indoors and outdoors across the campus.
There will be a few exemptions to the mask-optional policy: in health care settings, like the Wellness Center and the clinics in the Lane and Hybl Centers; in situations where contractual arrangements have been made which require continued mask wearing; and on public transportation such as Mountain Metro. Masks will be optional on the UCCS shuttles.
This decision stems from the priorities we have held since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, it is in line with higher education campuses in our city and across the state. Lifting the face covering requirement will allow members of our Mountain Lion community to engage with each other more freely.
Still, I know you may have a variety of feelings and experiences related to this news. We will continue to be a “mask friendly” campus. When masking becomes optional, I strongly encourage you to adapt at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
- If you wish to do so, please continue to wear a mask for as long as you feel comfortable. N-95 respirators are still available on campus. We will continue to make surgical masks available in all academic buildings.
- Please be considerate of one another’s needs and respect individual choice. Faculty, staff and students may respectfully request others wear face coverings in the classroom, in offices or in meeting spaces.
- If you are not fully vaccinated, are considered high-risk or have people in your household who are high-risk, please continue to follow appropriate precautions as recommended by the CDC.
- I urge every member of our campus to continue the practices that put us in the position to make this decision: staying up-to-date on booster shots, getting tested when you don’t feel well or think you may have been exposed, staying home when you’re sick, and self-reporting if you test positive.
We will continue to stay vigilant. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Cabinet and I have met regularly to consider case rates and determine how to move forward with our face covering policy. We will continue to do so. If a new variant arises in the future, we will again follow the guidelines provided by our health officials. Above all, we will continue to uphold our core priorities: the health, wellbeing, safety and success of our entire community. I ask supervisors to work with their employees in supporting a flexible work environment as they transition from the mask mandate to optional masking.
Mountain Lions, this is great news for our campus — but it also represents a new chapter. As a campus, I urge all of us to continue to practice compassion, courtesy, care and respect for each other. Once again, thank you for your courage and patience over the past two years. My hope is that we are finally turning the “COVID” corner. And I know that we have been, and will continue to be, stronger together.