The University of Wyoming has announced that they will be proceeding with a traditional fall semester for 2021, and will be taking steps to manage COVID-19, including a mask mandate for the beginning of the semester.
UW’s Board of Trustees Wednesday, August 11 approved a fall semester plan that “strongly encourages and incentivizes COVID vaccinations,” the UW announcement said. The plan also requires masks indoors through at least September 20 under circumstances to be communicated to the campus early next week.”
The announcement goes on to say that students and employees are required to be tested upon entry to the university. There will also be a mandatory education seminar on the virus and expansion of the current weekly sample testing program to both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees and students, with 3 percent of the population tested weekly.
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The indoor mask requirement doesn’t apply to people alone in their offices and private spaces, and there are medical exceptions. President Ed Seidel also has some discretion to consider lifting the requirement in certain circumstances. At its September 15 meeting, the board will reportedly revisit the mask requirement by considering data including case numbers, testing prevalence and vaccine uptake.
“Our hope is that the indoor mask requirement will only be necessary for the start of the fall semester,” Seidel says. “We will monitor the data closely between now and when the board revisits the issue at its September meeting.”
Details about the requirements for the educational seminar and one-time testing of all students at the start of the semester will be shared in coming days.
The fall semester will begin August 23 with face-to-face classes at full capacity along with face-to-face student engagement programs.
“We are responding to the uptick in cases in Albany County and the state, as well as the highly transmissible Delta variant, to help assure that we can stay in person through the semester and the academic year,” Seidel said in a written statement Wednesday. “Perhaps most importantly, we are doing just about everything we can, short of a mandate, to encourage and incentivize our employees and students to be vaccinated — to protect their individual health and that of the broader community.”
As of Monday, there are eight active cases of the virus reported by UW’s COVID-19 Hub — five students living off campus and three employees. The total number of confirmed COVID cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 2,276. The positivity rate among tests conducted under UW’s random-sample program in the past week is 1.39 percent.
The university says they highly encourage but don’t mandate the COVID vaccine for faculty, staff and students, in concert with a directive from Gov. Mark Gordon.
“The vaccines are proven to be highly safe and effective in preventing infection and serious illness, even for the easily transmissible Delta variant,” Seidel says. “It remains our sincere hope that all of our employees and students who are medically able will choose to be vaccinated. We intend to provide our students and employees with every opportunity to receive the vaccine, and to provide accurate information to help everyone make the best decisions for themselves.”
UW also is participating in an Albany County vaccination incentive program that will launch soon and be open to all employees and students.