Campus News

Important Health and Safety Update: Masking Indoors

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 6, 2021) — University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto sent the message below to the campus community this morning about indoor mask requirements.

 

Dear Campus Community,

Beginning Monday Aug. 9, masks will be required inside of all University of Kentucky indoor spaces, including both our academic and medical campuses, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

Why now?

We’ve been working diligently to review the data, understand the science and gather feedback.

  • As noted in my message last week, as we monitor the situation, I will continue to regularly update you on steps we need to take as a community to continue ensuring the health and safety of everyone at UK.
  • In addition to monitoring new evidence and data over this past week, members of my senior administration and I met yesterday with elected faculty, staff and student leaders to give them an update on our work to protect UK and to hear their feedback and concerns. 
  • Our START team of health professionals and scientists met yesterday as well for the second time in the last several days to examine the latest information and make recommendations. 
  • A committee I charged recently — comprised of representatives from the student body, faculty and staff — has met a number of times over the last few weeks to examine updating our policies and procedures around COVID-19 in preparation for the academic year. A fall guide will be available soon and will be circulated widely across the campus
  • Members of my cabinet have been seeking feedback throughout their units as well. And, this week, university presidents in the state met twice to discuss potential health and safety measures.

The consensus was clear that mandatory indoor masking is a prudent and appropriate step, given rising rates of COVID-19 infections, dominated by a more transmissible variant.

Let me be clear: The most important protection against the virus remains vaccines. Nothing else is close. The science is unequivocal on that fact.

I’m pleased that in the last few days alone, our vaccination percentage among returning students, faculty and staff continues to increase and is now more than 70%. We are counting on you to continue this trend.   Since last week, more than 2,000 students, faculty and staff have self-reported to the university, verifying that they have been vaccinated. We have more work to do, but we are making substantial progress in our drive to vaccinate more than 80% of the campus early in the academic year.

Masking has been shown to help prevent contracting the virus. As importantly, it helps stop the spread of the virus. Some of the latest science indicates that the Delta variant is more transmissible than early mutations of the virus.   

Although it is much less likely that a vaccinated individual would contract the virus, show symptoms or become seriously ill, masking will likely help reduce the risk even further.   We want the campus to return to as normal and rewarding an experience as possible, including in-person classes and internships, a vibrant residential experience, events and games: all the things that make this place so special for everyone in this community.

What does this policy mean?

Regardless of your vaccination status, you must wear masks in all indoor spaces on campus where people gather — classrooms, the Gatton Student Center, office spaces, our recreational facilities and in common gathering spaces like the lobby of a residence hall.

If you are in your office meeting with someone, and you both have been vaccinated, a mask is not required. 

Similarly, if a student is in a residence hall room and is with their roommate or has a guest — and everyone is vaccinated — a mask is not required.

However, in hallways and gathering areas, conference rooms and lobbies where people come together, masks should be worn by everyone, irrespective of vaccination status.

Masks are not required for anyone alone in indoor or outdoor spaces. However, unvaccinated individuals should wear masks outside when around other people.

As soon as we have tangible signs that the incidence of the virus is declining, as has been the case recently in other countries such as Great Britain, we hope to be positioned to remove this requirement.

The science and what we see on the ground will guide our actions. We will be nimble when we need to be, and we will always act thoughtfully and as quickly as possible to do what is in the best interests of our community.

We are continuing to gather feedback from the campus, which will include questions or other points that need to be answered and clarified. And we will work as quickly as possible to communicate those points of clarification. If you have questions or areas of concern, please reach out to our team at coronavirus@uky.edu, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

What else is being considered?

Students who are not vaccinated will take an entry test in the coming days. They also will be tested on a regular basis throughout the school year until they are vaccinated or provide us with verification of that status. Unvaccinated students must also continue to fill out the daily health screener.

To protect our campus, we will begin considering these options for staff and faculty as well — mandatory vaccines and mandatory testing on a regular basis. 

On Wednesday, UK HealthCare — along with other major health systems in Kentucky — announced that vaccines are required for the vast majority of employees. We will be considering such measures throughout the campus as well as part of a thorough and comprehensive examination of options to keep our community healthy and safe.

We are all anticipating a new school year — new beginnings and opportunities, new hopes and the expectation of something that feels familiar and right.

But I know, too, that once again we live in a world fraught with anxiety, in which we seem to confront more unknowns than knowns. That sense of uncertainty extends beyond the borders of our campus. It’s in our homes and in our schools. We worry about our children and our loved ones. While we take care of each other on our campus, we must also extend that sense of concern and compassion to our extended community as well.

I believe we can still have that experience and the year that we all want. We are facing a formidable foe in this virus. It’s a foe that we can only defeat together. I know that we can. I know that we will.

Thank you for what you do to make this community and our work possible.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.