American University announces COVID-19 protocols for fall semester

Masks will be required in classes, COVID-19 tests to be distributed by vending machines

American University announces COVID-19 protocols for fall semester

American University will require masks in class for students during the fall semester, the University announced in an email to the AU community on Thursday with other COVID-19 protocols for the fall semester.  

Masks will be required in the classroom, but faculty may remove masks while lecturing as long as they remain a “sufficient distance” from students, which the University specified as six feet away. Students may remove masks to drink, but are still prohibited from eating during class. The University said that in the case of performing arts or language classes, students may need to remove masks in order to “meet specific instructional needs.” In spaces such as offices, libraries, athletic events and public spaces, masks will remain optional. 

“Our revised fall health and safety protocols adjust a number of previous procedures and requirements, support our community, advance the full array of activities on campus, and help to ensure that our operations can continue in all areas,” Provost Peter Starr, Vice President of Inclusive Excellence Fanta Aw and Vice President of External Affairs Seth Grossman wrote in the email. 

Other spaces where masks will be required include the Center for Well-Being Programs and Psychological Services (formerly the Counseling Center), the Academic Support and Access Center and the Student Health Center. The University will continue to distribute masks on main campus, the Spring Valley Building and its offices at 4401 Connecticut Ave. NW. 

“We will continue to evaluate the classroom masking protocol periodically based on public health conditions including case counts and hospitalizations. Our hope is to ultimately reach a point where masks can be optional in the classroom,” the email read. 

The University cited its high vaccination rates as the explanation for masks being optional across most of campus, but said that if a community member asks someone to wear a mask when in close contact with them, to “please treat such requests with respect and give them full consideration.”

Additionally, the University will continue to provide COVID-19 tests will still be available to community members free of charge in the fall, but they will be distributed through vending machines in the Mary Graydon Center, Washington College of Law and at 4401 Connecticut Ave. NW. The University said that most test results will be returned within 24 hours. Mandatory surveillance testing will no longer be in place, including for community members with approved vaccine exemptions. 

The University will no longer be providing isolation housing for students in AU housing who test positive for COVID-19, and students are expected to isolate in place. Previously, students living in University housing had been taken to a hotel for the duration of their isolation. 

“While COVID-19 continues to circulate, this is a different stage of the pandemic. We are updating our approach in light of evolving guidance, the ongoing public health challenge, and the increased importance of individual responsibilities.” 

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

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