UWL to end mask mandate after two years


Image obtained from uwlax.edu.

Liberti Jonas-Jongebloed, General Assignment Reporter

In the last two years, the college experience has completely changed nationwide. For fourth-year students, they may remember some degree of normality from 2019. For third-year students, they may remember going home after the announcement that the campus was shutting down on Friday, March 13, 2020. For second-year students, they may remember the dorm regulations, guest policies, and quarantine dorm food from last year. For first-year students, they may only remember the requirement of a mask.  

After March 11, things may feel somewhat normal again. Following announcements from the UW System, the UW System announced that they would let individual UW institutions choose their end date for the mask mandate.

According to the UW site, “University of Wisconsin System President Tommy Thompson is working with university chancellors to begin removing current mandatory mask requirements on campus with the intent to withdraw them as soon as March 1 and no later than spring break.” As for the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, they have chosen to end the mandate on Friday, March 11, prior to the beginning of Spring Break.  

This decision stems from the fact that there are high vaccination rates throughout the UW system in addition to the fact that COVID-19 is rapidly decreasing across Wisconsin and the UW campuses. According to Our World in Data, 3.77 million people are fully vaccinated in Wisconsin.

In Thompson’s remarks, he said, “Wisconsin has one of the fastest rates of coronavirus decline in the country.” He elaborated and said, “While we will continue to take prudent prevention measures when warranted, restrictions can be lifted as case counts drop. Further, vaccinations and boosters are readily available to combat the virus that is much less severe for people who take this individual responsibility to protect themselves and others.” 

Health education & health promotion Professor Dan Duquette said, “I do think the mandate should continue through at least the end of March. Students will return from spring break from a variety of places, exposed to a variety of possible respiratory viruses to include influenza.”

He elaborated and said, “I am one who leans toward caution and therefore would like to see the mask mandate continue for a bit longer. We still need to be concerned about individuals with underlying health problems and protect them.” 

With this, since the establishment of the mandate, many college organizations have spoken up about their thoughts regarding the mask mandate. One organization even started a petition on Feb. 16 in order to have the mandate removed.  

Alexys Scheurerell, a freshman chemistry major at UWL said, “I have the unpopular opinion of disagreeing with the mask mandate ending. I think it needs to continue in an effort to protect the students and faculty on campus … [removing the mask mandate] increases the risk of spreading it across campus and even if I wear a mask, there is a higher risk of transmission, and I cannot afford to get COVID with my busy schedule.” 

In discussing improvement to COVID-19 policies at UWL, Professor Duquette said, “Policies should be thoroughly reviewed to see what was effective and why and what was not and why. Communications should be looked at and evaluated in the same way as the policies.”

He said, “Both should be evaluated by individuals other than those who wrote them and by individual groups that had to implement and follow the policies. After this, the policies should be modified as appropriate, so we are prepared for what comes next.” 

Guidelines regarding COVID-19, isolation, and quarantine can be found at https://www.uwlax.edu/info/covid-19/. COVID-19 testing will continue to be available at Cartright Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sign up for COVID-19 testing can be found on the UWL website if you search COVID-19 testing or at https://www.uwlax.edu/info/covid-19/testing/