By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The University of Wyoming will end its campus-wide mask mandate Monday, months after it was reimplemented in the spike of Delta variant COVID cases.
The university’s Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to rescind the mask mandate. The university was the last education system in the state to have such a mandate in place.
Longtime mask critic Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, celebrated the decision.
“I’m glad that UW is finally following real science,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.
University spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily that he could not find an initial date of masks being required, but noted it was “quite early” in the pandemic.
He did note that there was a period where the mandate was lifted last May, but was reinstated after Delta cases increased.
The board voted that masks would only be required in campus offices when requested by the office occupant, for employees in UW’s Early Care and Education Center and in medically-related units.
Masks will also still be required on UW Transit Service buses, in accordance with federal rules.
“We continue to recommend masks as a way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community but, by action of the board, we are moving to a new phase in the pandemic that will not include a mask requirement in most indoor spaces, including classrooms,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “Those who choose to continue wearing masks have the board’s and the university’s full support.”
The board’s decision on Wednesday followed its vote in December to extend the mandate. However, masks have not been required this academic year at voluntary public events such as athletics and music, theater and dance performances; voluntary social events, at private, by-invitation events that involve rental and/or use of UW spaces on campus and for patrons of Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center when participating in recreational activities, sports or fitness.
As of Monday, there were 14 active COVID cases among the UW community, six students on campus, three students off campus and five employees.
“The COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are recommended, even for those who have had COVID-19, as people who have not been vaccinated are up to two times more likely to get COVID-19 again as those who have been vaccinated,” Student Health Service Director Mary Beth Bender said. “While COVID-19 infection does provide some natural immunity, the level of protection from prior infection is lower than the protection from COVID-19 vaccinations.”