University of Virginia students, faculty, staff and visitors can bare their faces everywhere but in class as of March 21 as school officials plan to lift masking mandates that have been in place since the beginning of fall semester.
Persons, vaccinated or unvaccinated, will no longer be required to wear a mask in most UVa owned and leased spaces, including office buildings, recreational facilities, and venues such as John Paul Jones Arena.
“Nearly two years after this virus emerged and changed nearly everything about life at this university, we have finally reached a point where our medical experts are comfortable revising our mask policy,” school administrators said in an email to the UVa community.
The message was signed by UVa President Jim Ryan, Provost Liz Magill, COO J.J. Davis and CEO of UVa Health Dr. K. Craig Kent.
Officials said “encouraging signs” of the fading wave of COVID-19 infections caused by the omicron variant, the number of vaccinated students, staff and faculty and falling numbers of cases reported on Grounds led to the decision.
“The science suggests the threat the virus poses to healthy people who are up to date on their vaccinations is low, but there are many people within our community and in our area who are especially vulnerable and will continue to take additional measures to keep themselves safe,” administrators wrote.
“There will also be many people who simply feel more comfortable wearing their masks and practicing physical distancing. We should all continue to treat each other with kindness and respect, particularly as people make individual decisions about if or when to wear a mask,” they wrote.
Officials chose March 21, a week after students return from spring break to allow students to get back into the routine of class.
Although they may go barefaced into most areas of the university, students and faculty must remain under cover while in class.
“[An exception] to this change includes classrooms where students and faculty are often required to be in close proximity for extended periods of time, and where masks will still be required for the time being,” administrators said. “Masks will also still be required at UVa Health facilities in accordance with their policies. Finally, they will continue to be required on University Transit, in accordance with current federal requirements. If those requirements change, we will reevaluate our policy at that time.”
Administrators said that, should conditions improve further or if the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modify guidance, those masking requirement will be revisited. The same is true should conditions worsen.
“Our goal has always been to impose as few restrictions on this community as needed to protect public health, and that goal will guide our decision making going forward,” they wrote. “If we see an unexpected increase in cases or hospitalizations, or if another worrying variant arises, we will be ready to consider reinstating these policies or others if necessary.”