Officials will lift GW’s indoor mask mandate Monday, more than a month after the District dialed back its requirement in most indoor settings.
They announced in an email Saturday that the University’s indoor mask mandate would end with the exception of University healthcare facilities, but officials said mask use is still “strongly recommended.” When D.C.’s requirement expired in early March, officials said they would maintain GW’s mandate since they anticipated a surge in positive cases after spring break, saying continuing to require masks would help maintain a “very low” on-campus transmission rate in combination with regular testing and other pubic health protocols.
GW’s positivity rate increased slightly after the break but has since hovered around 1 percent, according to the COVID-19 testing dashboard. Officials said the mandate’s removal is a result of D.C.’s “low” community level designation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adding that there was no strong evidence that the recent rise led to “significant” transmission in indoor academic spaces or increased rates of severe COVID-19 illness.
“Although masks are optional on our campuses, their use is strongly encouraged,” officials wrote. “Individuals may choose whether to wear a mask based on a variety of reasons. We ask that you respect the personal decisions of others who continue to choose to wear a mask.”
Masks had been required in GW buildings for most of the pandemic. The requirement was briefly lifted for part of the summer of 2021, but the mandate was soon reinstated in July as cases began to rise due to the Delta variant.
Officials said they would also lift the vaccine mandate for campus visitors, except for those coming to indoor events at GW venues, like the Smith Center and Lisner Auditorium.
Students will still be required to receive COVID-19 tests every 15 days, except for those with exceptions to GW’s vaccine mandate, who test weekly.
The announcement comes as public health experts warn of BA.2 – a subvariant of the coronavirus’ Omicron variant – which now accounts for the majority of cases nationwide, according to CDC estimates earlier this week.
It also comes two years after the District implemented its first COVID-19-related stay-at-home order.
American University officials lifted the indoor mask mandate as of Monday in campus spaces like labs and classrooms but still requires masks in campus medical facilities and the AU shuttle. Georgetown University officials announced earlier in March that they would also lift the indoor mask mandate.
D.C. Public School officials lifted their indoor mask requirement and stopped detailed contact tracing earlier this month.
This article appeared in the April 4, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.