Some UW schools remove mask mandate

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Photo by Sarah Kuhns

Marquette University’s COVID-19 response teams is looking at different mitigation strategies.

Across Wisconsin, students and faculty will have the option to take off their masks next month as mask mandates across the state and at University of Wisconsin system schools expire. 

UW-Green Bay will no longer require masks beginning March 1. UW-Madison will not require masks beginning March 12, though the mask mandate for Dane County expires March 1. 

UW system outgoing President Tommy Thompson cited a decline in COVID-19 cases across Wisconsin and student vaccination rates as justification for the move.

However, UW-Milwaukee has not followed the lead of its UW school system counterparts. The university has not announced a date for the removal of its mask requirement, even though the City of Milwaukee’s indoor mask requirement will expire March 1.

“We are talking with UW System and local health officials about when it will be appropriate to lift our campus mask mandate. At the same time, we continue to encourage everyone to take advantage of the tools available to protect their health — vaccination, booster shots and the wider availability of high quality masks — based on their individual circumstances, need and comfort level,” John Schumacher, news editor and media relations manager at UW-Milwaukee, said. 

UW-Milwaukee is not the only school in Milwaukee that has not set a date for the removal of an on-campus mask mandate. Both Marquette and the Milwaukee School of Engineering currently have indoor mask mandates and there’s no timeline on when they will end.

The COVID-19 Response Team continues to evaluate local community transmission as we determine our COVID-19 mitigation efforts moving forward,” Lynn Griffith, Assistant Vice President of University Communication, said in an email.

With the removal of the mask mandate by the UW system all universities within the system, such as UW-Milwaukee, can make independent decisions for their own schools. Neither Marquette nor MSOE are part of the UW school system, so they have never been required to make COVID-19 decisions that align with a larger governing body of universities. 

Our COVID response team will be discussing MSOE’s mask mandate and whether or not changes are recommended for the start of our Spring Quarter. We won’t be making changes based on other universities’ decisions, instead making evidence-based recommendations that take federal, state and local health guidelines into consideration,” JoEllen Burdue, senior director of communications and media relations at MSOE, said.

MSOE’s spring quarter begins Monday, March 7. MSOE also currently requires masks inside of public indoor spaces.

In terms of masks on Marquette’s campus, the COVID-19 response team is looking at different factors to determine university policies.

“The COVID-19 Response Team is discussing our mitigation efforts – including masking – with local and national public health experts. As we consider our path forward, we are tracking the City of Milwaukee case burden and percent positivity, as well as our campus percent positivity, which is publicly available on the Marquette COVID-19 dashboard (14-day is 4%, 7-day is 2% and daily is 1%). The City of Milwaukee indoor mask requirement remains in effect until March 1, 2022,” Xavier Cole, Vice President of student affairs, said. 

Similar to Marquette, MSOE and UW-Milwaukee require weekly surveillance testing for students, faculty and staff who have not uploaded proof of vaccination. 

However, student vaccination at both schools is lower than at Marquette. 78% of students at MSOE have uploaded proof of the primary doses, 91% of students at UW-Milwaukee have and at Marquette 94% of students. 

In terms of employee primary vaccination series, MSOE is at 85%, UW-Milwaukee is at 83% and Marquette is at 95%. Unlike Marquette, MSOE and UW-Milwaukee do not currently require proof of a booster shot to avoid being subject to weekly surveillance testing. As of Feb. 1 any student, faculty or staff at Marquette that has not uploaded proof of a booster shot is subject to weekly testing.

This story was written by Megan Woolard. She can be reached at megan.woolard@marquette.edu