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Optional mask wearing is turning point of pandemic life on campus

March 25, 2022

With the return from spring break comes significant changes in the COVID-19 guidelines. What may be the turnaround to the pandemic has finally reached campus. With COVID cases dropping since the last spike, nationwide cases are at their lowest since the school year began last fall.

President of the UW-Systems Tommy Thompson has made the decision to lift the mask mandate on our campus and many others. Discussed during a meeting between Thompson and State Chancellors, COVID rates are projected to continue to go down as part of a current national trend. With masks being optional beginning March 11, testing on campus and vaccination opportunities will remain. 

During an interview with Chancellor Maria Gallo, concerns about the mask mandate being lifted were reassured. “According to the CDC, our counties are no longer high-risk,” said Gallo. “I do want to make it clear that our COVID task force will not be dissolved. We are not dropping everything; we are keeping everything else in place and monitoring to keep everybody safe.” 

There has been concern voiced throughout students regarding the mask mandate being lifted directly after spring break. With students traveling and socializing throughout the week, an uptick in cases is expected. However, with the vaccination rate on campus, the rise in cases is not expected to be significant. 

Gallo stated, “I feel that we’ll be extremely diligent. As a scientist, I’m watching this like a hawk myself to make sure we don’t see anything that makes us concerned, but if we do, masks go right back on. Don’t throw your masks away. Keep everything ready to go in case something happens so we can handle it quickly”

If students have traveled or spent time in large groups over break, they are strongly encouraged to get tested upon their return to campus. All students that may be experiencing symptoms are also expected to get tested. 

Those who remain unvaccinated will be required to test during the first week back from Spring Break. These dates will be between Monday, March 21 and Friday, March 25. 

Testing remains easily accessible in Hagestad and takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. A link on the front page of the Falcons Forward website is available for quick appointment scheduling.

For those who choose to continue wearing masks on campus and those who decide not to, everyone must remember to remain respectful and supportive of one another's beliefs. “Nobody knows everybody's personal situations, so we should respect each other and the choices that everyone makes,” says Gallo. “We are one family and community, and we are safer here on campus than out there in the community in terms of percentages of vaccinations and masking.”

While completing the spring semester, students are to keep in mind that the best protection against COVID-19 is keeping up with the vaccinations and boosters and wearing high-quality masks. As of now, it seems that the worst of the pandemic may be through, so keep spirits high, support one another, and Go Falcons!

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