Dear Danforth Campus students, faculty and staff,
The St. Louis region has seen dramatic drops in the number of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. We are now at levels lower than at the start of the Omicron surge, and still trending downward. At this moment, fewer than one out of 1,500 people in St. Louis County are known to have active COVID-19 infection. Our medical experts have tracked reassuring data throughout the Omicron surge that indicate severe illness is very rare for most people who are up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and that vaccination significantly reduces the risk of developing long-COVID.
While there are still important reasons to remain cautious, there also is cause for optimism. The CDC last week altered its guidance to indicate that universal masking requirements are not necessary to prevent a public health crisis in places where hospital systems are not overwhelmed and case rates are appropriately low. St. Louis currently meets both of these criteria. Mask requirements are being relaxed in the County and the City will soon follow suit. At this time, we feel it is safe to begin pulling back some of our COVID mitigation efforts on campus, and are making the following changes to our masking policy.
- Effective today, March 3, masking is optional for social events of any size, with or without food, on or off campus.
- Effective Monday, March 14, masking will be optional for all Danforth Campus spaces. There will be no limit on gathering sizes.
While many of us will celebrate this important step toward our “next normal,” it’s important for everyone to recognize that individuals will have different perspectives about these changes on our campus as we move forward. WashU is a community that cares for each other. As we progressively pull back COVID mitigation in the coming weeks and individuals make personal decisions about masking, we must also focus on how we care for each other, even if our own risk perceptions and tolerances are different from others. It will be important for all of us to keep the following in mind.
- Stay home if you’re sick. Please do not come to campus or leave your on-campus residence if you have even mild symptoms of COVID. Call the COVID Call Center at 314-362-5056 (faculty and staff) or Habif Health and Wellness Center at 314-935-6666 (students) for guidance and to get a free test if needed.
- Don’t question someone or make assumptions about them because of their choice to wear or not wear a mask. Some may choose to wear a mask, say no to a social engagement, or otherwise exercise more caution than others.
- If a classmate or colleague asks you to wear a mask, please consider doing so to be supportive, even if the rules don’t require it. Keep in mind they may be at a higher risk, caring for others at a higher risk, or feeling less comfortable in a mask-optional environment.
For those who are concerned about working and learning in a mask-optional environment, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- You may continue to wear a mask if you choose. One-way masking does still offer substantial protection to the wearer.
- The university will continue to monitor conditions and reinstate mitigation measures as necessary.
As always, we’re making policy decisions in close consultation with our own medical experts at the School of Medicine. For additional insight into changing masking guidance, see this Q&A with Dr. Steve Lawrence, which provides greater detail about current conditions and why we’re able to start lifting some of our requirements at this time.
It’s a positive step forward that we are able to start putting our mask requirement tool back in the toolbox, but it’s important to remember that we can pull it out again if we need to. It’s entirely possible, if not likely, that new COVID-19 variants will continue to emerge and that potentially dangerous surges will occur in the future. We will continue to monitor conditions closely and make any necessary adjustments to protect our community.
Please care for yourselves and each other as we all adjust to the coming changes. Just as we have throughout the pandemic, we will keep working together to rise to whatever challenges may still come our way. For now, we’re pleased that we’ll soon be able to start seeing each other’s faces more regularly (and not just in Zoom boxes!) and to resume some more of the in-person activities and interactions that make our on-campus lives so rich and enjoyable.
Andrew D. Martin
Shantay N. Bolton
Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Administrative Officer
Anna “Dr. G” Gonzalez
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs