Dear AU Community,
We hope you had an enjoyable spring break and are ready to finish the semester strong. The warming weather and blooming spring colors on our beautiful campus mark an important transition every year and spread optimism throughout the community. But this year, it also brings a shift to a less impactful period of the COVID-19 pandemic and provides opportunities to adjust our health and safety protocols in a measured, phased approach. Beginning on Monday, March 21, masks will be optional in most campus locations, including classrooms, labs, office spaces, residence halls, dining facilities, event spaces, libraries, and fitness centers. We are using the remainder of this week as a transition period to support our community and account for any cases that may result from spring break travel.
Masks will remain required in campus medical facilities, including the Student Health Center, Counseling Center, and COVID-19 testing sites; on the AU shuttle; and inside any AU vehicle used for public transportation, in alignment with the extended TSA mask requirement for public transportation systems. Further updates for these specific environments will be provided as needed.
Community members may choose to wear a high-quality mask in any setting or location based on their personal preferences or situations. We know that individuals who are immunocompromised, have children under five who cannot yet be vaccinated, or who are caring for at-risk family members may wish to continue masking. The science shows that wearing KN95s and N95s, as opposed to cloth masks, provides strong protection for individuals including in situations where others may be unmasked. The campus mask distribution sites will continue operating to support our community.
Our community of care remains at the heart of our approach. Listening and respect are critical. If a member of our community asks others to wear a mask when they are in close contact with one another, including faculty in our classrooms and staff in our offices, please treat such requests with respect and give them full consideration.
Additionally, we will return to full capacity attendance for events in Bender Arena and our performing arts spaces with masks optional for most events. All external visitors must continue to comply with our vaccine requirements. For off-campus events, we will follow the COVID guidelines for the jurisdiction where the event is taking place.
Our updated approach builds on the recent guidance from CDC and DC Health, the continued improvement of health conditions, and changes we already instituted such as removing physical distancing requirements at events and welcoming visitors to campus. With our vaccination rate near 99 percent and our booster rate nearing 90 percent, our AU community is highly protected and the Washington, DC region is classified as a low-risk area for transmission. Most states and localities are lifting mask mandates, with Hawaii becoming the 50th state to drop the requirement and DCPS is making masks optional in K-12 schools. The pandemic is moving from a public health situation requiring comprehensive preventative steps taken by all community members to one where the health system is stable and individual decisions become the primary avenue for supporting health.
We continue to monitor the overall COVID situation closely and will update our protocols as necessary should the track of the pandemic shift again or if the health authorities adjust their guidance. If you have any questions about the updated health and safety protocols, please use the following contact information:
- Students – email@example.com
- Faculty – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Staff – email@example.com
Thank you for helping keep our community safe and we hope you have a great second half of the semester.
Sylvia M. Burwell
Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment, Campus Life, and Inclusive Excellence
Vice President for People and External Affairs and Counselor to the President