Dear Campus Community,
We have come together as a community at each critical juncture throughout the pandemic.
Now, we are ready to move once again — this time, to modify in significant ways the mandatory mask policy that has been in place indoors on our campus this academic year. Beginning on March 9, UK will make the following adjustments to its mask policy:
We will adopt an optional mask-wearing policy in common areas across campus, such as the Gatton Student Center; common areas or hallways of classroom buildings; dining halls; libraries; workout facilities; and residence halls.
Masks will also be optional during voluntary events, such as Campus Ruckus, concerts, theatrical performances and at athletics venues.
For performing arts classes — music, dance and theatre — masks are optional during performance situations (whether lessons, labs or performances). Masks, though, must be worn in classes when not performing.
Masks will remain mandatory in classrooms during classes. We will supply classrooms with masks.
Masks also will remain mandatory in private offices/suites and conference/meeting rooms where more than one person is gathered.
Masks must continue to be worn in research and classroom laboratories.
Health care facilities and settings are exempt from these changes. Current masking policies will remain in place in UK HealthCare settings, per UKHC policies.
Recognizing the variability of mask policies across the state, Cooperative Extension employees should follow the mask policies consistent with their county government policy. For 4-H programs and youth under 12, the guidelines of local public-school systems will be followed.
If the positive trajectory of the virus continues, our hope is to expand the mask optional policy throughout the campus — not including health-care facilities and settings — following commencement ceremonies in May.
We will move as quickly as possible to update COVID-related websites and signage throughout the campus to reflect this policy change.
We are making this move in accordance with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and after consultation with our START team; student, faculty and staff leaders; health professionals; deans; and administrators, to balance options while continuing to ensure and prioritize the safety of our campus.
The CDC guidance indicates that masks should be optional as incidence rates decline along with hospitalization rates and increasing bed capacity at health care facilities.
Incidence rates of the virus in Fayette County — and throughout much of the Commonwealth — have been declining precipitously in recent weeks. And the numbers of COVID patients in UK HealthCare facilities have been dropping for several days as well. Urban County Council offices announced a similar move last week.
As with every other step we’ve taken in meeting this challenge, we are doing so after deep consultation, robust feedback and thoughtful consideration of what the science and health authorities are telling us.
We are pleased to make this move at this time. It points to the hope that we are beginning a new phase in the long battle against this virus — moving from a pandemic to an illness that is endemic: something serious that is part of our lives but doesn’t dominate seemingly every aspect of them.
As always, we will continue to follow emerging science and data, and if conditions warrant, we won’t hesitate to change policies and processes as part of our commitment to keeping our community healthy and safe. We also will continue our Health Corps operations, where staff are available to provide our community with support and guidance.
It’s also important to underscore that, while masks may be optional in many settings, people may continue to want this added layer of protection.
That choice should be respected as should the choice to not wear a mask in a space where it is optional. We are in this together.
We are a community that is stronger when we honor different perspectives and needs. This issue is no different. This is another opportunity, at another important moment, to come together again.
Eli Capilouto President