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UW System says campus mask mandates will end

With vaccinations and boosters readily available, UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson says it's time to eliminate mandatory mask requirements

UW-Superior file
Social distancing signs hang in the Yellowjacket Union on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus. UW System officials announced this week that they are working to end mask mandates on its campuses.
File / Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — The University of Wisconsin System will eliminate its mandatory mask requirements on its campuses across the state.

UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson is working with chancellors to begin removing current mandatory mask requirements on campus by March 1, but no later than spring break, he said in a news release.

Administrators credit policy for boost in applications, freshman enrollment.

UW-Superior officials have not yet decided how they will proceed.

“Campus leadership and I are working on a plan for campus, with consultation from UW System and Douglas County Public Health,” UW-Superior Chancellor Renee Wachter said. “We will share out campus plan with you early next week.”

Thompson said widespread vaccination on university campuses and the rapidly decreasing prevalence of COVID-19 in campus communities and across Wisconsin present favorable conditions to lift indoor mask requirements.

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“Wisconsin has one of the fastest rates of coronavirus decline in the country,” Thompson said. “While we will continue to take prudent prevention measures when warranted, restrictions can be lifted as case counts drop. Further, vaccinations and boosters are readily available to combat the virus that is much less severe for people who take this individual responsibility to protect themselves and others.”

Scientific consensus is emerging that suggests the virus will likely be recurrent with some degree of ongoing transmission expected, he said. As a result, just as with other viruses, there will be times when the COVID-19 virus is more prevalent and times when it is not. However, due to vaccination and infection-induced immunity, it is expected the population will continue to build its overall immunity and the risk of severe disease will decrease.

Coronavirus vaccines and tests will still be available on campus, and students and employees can opt to wear masks if they wish, he said. The UW System and its universities will continue to monitor COVID-19 and adjust policies as needed if circumstances change, the news release said.

Students, staff and faculty have been terrific in demonstrating a culture of responsibility for the last two years, Thompson said.

"Students should be able to cheer on sports teams, attend concerts and performances, and go to classes without masks when the conditions are right,” he said.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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As reported by Douglas County.
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