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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BREAKING: American University to reinstate indoor mask mandate in all campus buildings Tuesday

Officials cite increase in levels of COVID-19 transmission in DC region in decision

American University will reinstate the mask mandate effective Tuesday, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases in the D.C. region.

The University announced Monday in an email from administrators that masks will be required in all campus buildings except when individuals are alone in private offices, inside residence hall rooms with only roommates or when actively eating or drinking.

Community members must wear “well-fitting, high-quality masks such as N95s or KN95s” while in all campus buildings. AU’s distribution sites will continue to provide free KN95 masks, said Fanta Aw, the vice president of undergraduate enrollment, campus life and inclusive excellence. 

Faculty can opt not to wear a mask when teaching if there is at least three feet of distance from students in the class and faculty and students may briefly remove their masks to drink during class. The University strongly recommends wearing masks when in large public groups or off-campus social gatherings, Aw wrote in the email.

Aw cited an expected increase in levels of transmission in the D.C. region in the coming weeks with the BA.2 variant now being the dominant strain of COVID-19

“Cases in the AU community similarly rose over the last several weeks, with our positivity rate steadily increasing,” Aw wrote. “However, we are not seeing severe cases in the AU community due to our extremely high levels of vaccination and boosters.”

Cases have been on the rise since the University made masks optional March 21. AU reported 74 new coronavirus cases in the University community between March 28 and April 3, bringing the total confirmed cases for the spring semester to 835. 

“Importantly, the best protection is to get your COVID vaccination and booster,” Aw said.

Aw said the University will continue the current COVID-19 testing protocol, with surveillance testing for students, and faculty and staff encouraged to test twice a month.

Aw added that the May commencement events will likely require masks for all attendees and further details will be provided before the ceremonies. The University will revisit the mask protocol by May 9 and provide further updates based on any changes to public health conditions or University protocols.

The updated mask policy follows Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities’ decisions to temporarily reinstate mask mandates due to an increase in COVID-19 cases among students. Johns Hopkins University will again require masks in dining hall facilities and residence hall common areas; masking is already required in classrooms. Georgetown University is reinstating an indoor mask mandate on the main and medical center campuses nearly two weeks after making masks optional.

“We are focused on helping the AU community stay healthy, limit isolation and maintain their academic and professional pursuits,” Aw said.

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