UW to require face masks until Sept. 20

GILLETTE — Face masks will be required indoors until at least Sept. 20 at the University of Wyoming.

UW trustees approved a plan for the fall semester that allows for in-person learning but will have some of the holdovers from COVID-19 precautions that defined last year.

The most notable holdover is the face masks requirement, according to a statement from the university circulated after the board’s meeting on Wednesday. The exact circumstances surrounding the mask requirements will be announced next week.

The fall semester begins Aug. 23, and classes will be in-person and held at full capacity. Student engagement programs and athletic events will be in person, as well.

“Our hope is that the indoor mask requirement will only be necessary for the start of the fall semester,” said Ed Seidel, UW’s president, in the statement.

The face mask policy will be revisited at the board’s Sept. 15 meeting to determine whether the policy will continue based on the latest evidence on case numbers and vaccination rates.

UW won’t require vaccinations, but the current plan for the fall semester strongly encourages them. The university is continuing its incentive program that gives cash and other prizes to students who show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The plan also will include a requirement that students and employees get tested when entering the university, as well as a mandatory education seminar on the virus.

Weekly sample testing will expand to include both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and employees, and 3 percent of the university population will be tested each week.

On Monday, there were eight active cases reported by the university, including five students living off campus and three employees.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among UW students and employees since the pandemic began is 2,276, according to the university’s statement. The positivity rate among tests conducted under UW’s random-sample program in the past week is 1.39 percent.

As of Wednesday, Wyoming has 1,355 active cases, and it has seen 1,947 confirmed cases over the past two weeks. There were 99 hospitalizations.

Since the pandemic began, Wyoming has seen 56,187 confirmed cases, and 793 Wyomingites have died from COVID-19.

Seidel encouraged all students and employees who are medically able to get vaccinated.

“The vaccines are proven to be highly safe and effective in preventing infection and serious illness, even for the easily transmissible Delta variant,” Seidel said.

As of Monday, 2,876 individual students had reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID vaccine on the Student Health Service portal, up from 2,721 the week before, according to the university’s statement. That number is also up from the 1,665 reporting before the incentive program was announced July 9.

On the employee side of things, as of Monday, 2,121 of UW’s 2,880 benefited employees, or 73.6 percent, have reported receiving at least one dose of the vaccines, according to the university’s statement. The percentage drops when including non-benefited employees, some of whom are students. With those included, 3,252 of UW’s 5,851 total employees, or 55.5 percent, have reported receiving at least one dose.