Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced Wednesday that the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s current on-campus mask mandate will be extended to March 11. The decision follows an announcement made earlier in the day by the UW system that all on-campus mask mandates will be allowed to expire in early March.
The Office of the Chancellor stated that the decision to lift the mask mandate comes as a result of a declining number of COVID-19 cases.
“A growing number of communities and academic institutions are lifting masking requirements as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decline and as vaccinations and booster doses continue to guard against serious illness,” the announcement said. “While this does not mean the pandemic is over, it is a sign that we can have confidence in the protection we receive from COVID-19 vaccination.”
The university will continue to provide masks to the campus community and encourages those that want to continue masking to do so. University Health Services plans to host two online discussions in late February for students, staff and faculty about the change.
UW-Madison’s decision echoes UW System President Tommy Tompson’s statement, which also pointed to declining rates of COVID-19 cases across Wisconsin as the reason for ending the mask mandate in facilities associated with the university system.
“Wisconsin has one of the fastest rates of coronavirus decline in the country,” Thompson said. “While we will continue to take prudent prevention measures when warranted, restrictions can be lifted as case counts drop. Further, vaccinations and boosters are readily available to combat the virus that is much less severe for people who take this individual responsibility to protect themselves and others.”
Tompson additionally congratulated students on demonstrating restraint during the COVID-19 pandemic and stated that they should be allowed to return to normalcy as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decrease.
“Our students have been terrific for the last two years in demonstrating a culture of responsibility,” Thompson added. “We have worked relentlessly to instill in them the need to protect themselves and those around them. Students should be able to cheer on sports teams, attend concerts and performances and go to classes without masks when the conditions are right.”
In her statement, Blank encouraged individuals to get vaccinated and to take whatever measures they feel comfortable with to ensure their safety during the ongoing pandemic.
“The research strongly suggests that individuals who are vaccinated, boosted and wearing a high-quality mask have a high degree of protection, regardless of what other individuals around them may choose,” Blank said.
The decision to end the on-campus mask mandate comes less than a week after Public Health Madison and Dane County announced that the county wide mask mandate will be allowed to expire on March 1.