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Face mask mandate reinstated on University campuses

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, the University has decided, effective immediately, to reinstate for the time being the indoor face-masking requirement on the University campuses and properties.

This requirement applies to all students, faculty, staff, visitors, and others—including those who are fully vaccinated and boosted. All Medical Center “tan” locations —including the School of Nursing, School of Medicine and Dentistry, and administrative areas such as Corporate Woods and RTP—are also included; there is no change to masking requirements in patient care areas, as they have and will continue to require masking until further notice. (To access the URMC Intranet,  you must be on the University network.)

Face masks are not required at Memorial Art Gallery.

Throughout the pandemic, we have followed the latest science and government guidance, and made decisions based on what’s been happening on campus at any given time. The trending high numbers of positive student COVID cases at the University in recent days make it in everyone’s best interest to take the step of re-masking indoors right now. We hope that this will bring down the number of positive cases and 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. Bringing down the campus infection rate will also protect vulnerable members of our community, and hopefully keep students healthy as they complete their finals and conclude the semester.

We know this isn’t welcome news, but we’re not alone: many of the University’s peer institutions in the Northeast have reinstated their indoor masking requirements given the relatively high current COVID numbers, especially compared to other parts of the U.S.

As part of today’s decision:

  • Acceptable face coverings are disposable, non-cloth masks: surgical or KN95. Free disposable face masks continue to be available on campuses.
  • Fully vaccinated students, faculty, and staff who are alone and not in a public or shared space may unmask. This does not apply to clinical areas that require masking per New York State regulations.
  • Any in-person meetings or group activities in conference rooms or other indoor spaces should be conducted with everyone being masked—regardless of vaccination status.
  • In the classroom, fully vaccinated instructors who can maintain greater than 6 feet distance from all class participants can unmask while instructing; class attendees must remain masked and the instructor should re-mask when class instruction is complete.
  • When eating in Rochester Dining locations or other public or shared indoor spaces on campus, everyone should stay masked when not eating.
  • In on-campus student living spaces, students may be unmasked in their room with their roommate(s) or “family unit.” All other times, students should be masked.
  • Face masks continue to be required for everyone on the University shuttles.
  • For performances and varsity sporting events, performers and athletes may be unmasked, but audiences/spectators must mask when indoors. Sponsored University events held off campus should adhere to local venue policies.

We’re continuing to monitor the COVID cases on campus and in the community, and we’ll adjust COVID prevention measures as warranted. We’ll evaluate conditions on campus in early May and let you know of any changes in these requirements, especially for the University Commencement Ceremony.

Thank you for your continued patience as we navigate the ever-changing course of this disease. We all want to enjoy spring in Rochester and finish the semester strong, and we’re taking this step now in the hopes of being able to do just that in the coming weeks.

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