After a 42 day hiatus, masks are back.
This morning, students woke to an email announcing that UR has reinstated an indoor mask mandate following a surge in on campus cases. This comes after an April 1 update which encouraged face mask usage amongst University faculty, staff, and students. The April 15 email from the @Rochester newsletter arrived at 6 a.m. with a list of the changes to occur, with a more detailed update available via the COVID-19 Resource Center website.
“In response to a current spike in COVID infections on campus, and in order to get everyone over the finish line of the spring semester,” notes the update, “the University has decided, effective immediately, to reinstate for the time being the indoor face-masking requirement on the University campuses and properties.”
UR has reported 309 total positive tests on campus over the past 14 days, with 256 of those attributed to the River Campus. In the past 24 hours — as of 4:40 p.m. on April 14 — 61 positive tests have been reported, with 51 of them belonging to River Campus students.
Monroe County has seen an upward trend in cases bringing the case rate per 100,000 people to 224.6 this week, helping to place the county in the “medium” community spread level according to an April 14 CDC update.
The indoor face masking requirement, effective immediately, has been reinstated for everyone setting foot on a University campus, facility, or shuttle; this includes students, staff, faculty, and visitors alike, regardless of vaccination status. If you are fully vaccinated and completely alone, you may unmask, as well as in student living spaces with roommates or suitemates.
Similar to the previous mandate, instructors in lecture halls and students in performances or varsity sports are partially exempted from the mask requirement. Fully-vaccinated instructors who can remain over six feet from their students, are allowed to unmask only while instructing, performers and athletes are allowed to remain unmasked for their events. Any audience members, spectators, or lecture attendees are required to stay masked.
For dining, it is advised that “when eating in Rochester Dining locations or other public or shared indoor spaces on campus, everyone should stay masked when not eating.”
In addition, cloth masks are still barred from acceptable use — surgical masks and KN95s, both of which are disposable, are allowed. Free surgical masks will continue to be available in public campus spaces such as Common Connections.
Within the update, the University states that they are “continuing to monitor the COVID cases on campus and in the community” and plan to “adjust COVID prevention measures as warranted” by reevaluating the mandate in early May.
The April 15 mandate mirrors the one which expired on March 4th of this year following a decline in COVID cases on campus. Cases slowly started to rise following spring break, with the spread being the highest this week.
The University says they hope that this updated requirement will “prevent an unmanageable surge in infections, which are already straining the capacity of the University’s quarantine and isolation spaces for students as well as creating significant challenges for student health, facilities, and dining services,” and “protect vulnerable members of our community, and hopefully keep students healthy as they complete their finals and conclude the semester.”