Following updated CDC guidance from the end of February, much of the U.S. has begun to shift toward a new phase in the pandemic, adopting mask-optional policies in place of mandates.
On March 7, UCCS lifted its mask-wearing requirement, making masks optional indoors or outdoors on campus. Chancellor Venkat Reddy announced the decision via email on March 1.
Exceptions to the mask-optional policy include the Wellness Center, Lane Center and Hybl Center clinics, as well as the Mountain Metro public transportation. UCCS shuttles no longer require masks.
“Lifting the face covering requirement will allow members of our Mountain Lion community to engage with each other more freely,” Reddy wrote via email.
He advised that students adapt at their own pace and respect each other’s choices. “Faculty, staff and students may respectfully request others wear face coverings in the classroom, in offices or in meeting spaces,” he said.
According to Reddy, the Cabinet will continue to evaluate the mask policy based on case rates throughout the semester. “If a new variant arises in the future, we will again follow the guidelines provided by our health officials,” he said.
From the week of Feb. 28 through March 7, UCCS conducted 48 COVID-19 tests and reported two positive cases, according to the COVID-19 Dashboard. UCCS reported a total of 34 positive cases in the month of February, a significant decrease compared to 159 positive cases in January.
The CDC’s new policy outlines COVID-19 Community Levels from low to high based on cases per 100,000 people, hospital admissions per 100,000 people and percent of inpatient hospital occupation.
As of March 5, El Paso County remains in the low community level. The county reported 31 cases per 100,000 and seven hospitalizations in the week of Feb. 28 through March 7, according to El Paso County Public Health.
The CDC classifies the low community level by fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 in the past seven days, as well as low hospitalization statistics. At this level, the CDC advises mask-wearing based on personal preference and individual risk.
At the medium community level, the CDC recommends that those who are immunocompromised or otherwise at high risk for severe illness take additional precautions, such as mask-wearing. At the high community level, masks are required regardless of individual risk or vaccination status.
Reddy encouraged students to continue to manage COVID-19 risk by “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.”
Surgical masks remain available in campus buildings and students can still request N95 respirators through the following form, according to Reddy.
El Paso County Health Department will host another COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Wellness Center on March 30 from 1-5 p.m. The clinic will offer first, second and third doses and boosters of the Moderna vaccine and will be open to students, faculty, staff and their family members. Those interested can register through the following link.