Updated March 21, 2022
Dear Golden Bear Community,
Since the beginning of the term, we have witnessed encouraging downward trends regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. These include a decline in cases at the national, state, and local levels and a significant decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations and mortality. Within our Golden Bear community, we have seen the wave of Omicron cases subside and stabilize. Thanks to your commitment, we maintain a high vaccination rate, and a significant portion of the campus is also up to date on boosters. We are better equipped against the virus today than we were two years ago, including having access to testing and the appropriate resources to handle cases as needed. This is encouraging news and demonstrates that we are beginning to live with this virus.
Because all the trend lines that we study are moving in the right direction, Western New England University will be shifting to a mask-ready policy beginning Friday, March 25 at 3:00 p.m. Community members are welcome to continue to wear masks and are encouraged to do so based upon their risk and comfort level, but they will no longer be required in most indoor settings.
There are a few exceptions that should be noted. Consistent with federal and local requirements (MA DPH Mask Requirements in Certain Locations) WNE will still require masks in the following locations or situations:
- Center for Health and Wellness
- Community Patient Care Center
- Academic clinical work that involves or interacts with community members
- Traveling by bus for University-related functions or events
In addition, faculty and staff members who convene classes, labs, or meetings may require attendees to wear masks.
People with symptoms, a recent known exposure, or a history of being a close contact with a positive case must wear a mask until cleared by Health Services.
What does Mask-Ready Mean?
Mask-ready means all individuals must continue to carry a mask with them at all times to comply with any request to wear a mask from faculty or staff members holding classes, labs, gatherings, or meetings. Outside of such requests, any individual may decide whether to wear a mask based on their comfort level, risk, and health history. Masks are still welcome to be worn in any setting.
A Community of Respect
This policy change will be welcomed by many on campus who have experienced mask fatigue. Conversely, there are community members who may feel anxious about this transition to mask-ready and feel it prudent to continue to mask; particularly those who have underlying health issues, are immunocompromised, or are living with someone who is at higher risk. Please be supportive of one another and demonstrate empathy and civility during this shift. We are a community made stronger by honoring different perspectives and needs, and we must be respectful of each other’s choices and unique circumstances.
Moving Forward with Spring Term
Our transition to a mask-ready policy does not negate proven mitigation processes. Access to testing and our modified isolation and quarantine program will remain in place. Additionally, we continue to provide booster clinics every Friday and free high-grade KN-95 masks in the Center for Health and Wellness and across campus.
We will continue to monitor COVID-19 metrics at the federal, state, and local levels, in addition to campus-specific outcomes, to ensure our community remains informed of ongoing trends and to make adjustments to the WNE masking policy if needed. We will also continue to provide weekly updates and maintain our COVID Dashboard and Information webpage as a resource for information.
If you have any questions or concerns about the mask-ready policy, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We thank you for your diligence and ability to adapt as we look ahead to the remainder of the spring term.
Basil A. Stewart
Vice President for Finance and Administration
Chair of the Emergency Management Response Team (EMRT)
Director, Center for Health and Wellness Center