UM to drop mask mandate Tuesday

After a little over a year and a half of mandating masks in indoor public spaces on campus, the University of Miami is ending the mask mandate on campus beginning Tuesday, March 1, the school confirmed in an email sent Monday afternoon.

“Through the consistent and collective efforts of our entire University community, and due to the dramatic decline in cases and high rate of vaccination across our campuses, we now have reached a point where we can safely update our indoor mask guidelines. Beginning tomorrow – Tuesday, March 1 – masks will no longer be required in indoor spaces on the Coral Gables and Marine campuses,” the email states.

As of Feb. 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that low risk communities “wear a mask based on personal preference.” People at medium or high risk are encouraged to wear appropriate facial coverings in indoor public settings.

The decision comes on the heels of numerous other universities’, regional school boards’, and nations’ announcements that they plan to drop the mandate. New York City’s mayor, Eric Adams, announced on Sunday that the city plans to eliminate the public school mask mandate by March 7th.

Miami-Dade public schools abandoned the mask mandate on Nov. 9, making masks optional for students. The University of Florida has not had a mask mandate in place since May 15, 2021.

“I think that those of us who teach would like the expertise to know whether it is healthy to do it without a mask,” said Bruce Garrison, a professor at UM. “I’m dependent on the people in the med-school and they’re dependent on the people at the CDC.”

The email also states that although masks are optional, there are situations where mask usage will be needed. Those situations include when an individual tests positive for COVID-19, an individual experiencing COVID-like symptoms, individuals who are identified as close contacts of COVID-positive subjects and any immunocompromised individuals.

“I’m glad the mask mandate is finally going away,” said Shane Stewart, a junior at UM. “With most of the students being healthy and acclimated it feels long overdue.”

The UM COVID-19 dashboard reports only five active isolations and one active quarantine case as of Feb. 28. The university also reports an overall vaccination rate of 86.4% of students and 94.4% of faculty. The dashboard further says that Miami-Dade County has reported a seven-day rolling average of only 458 cases.

“I’m like everyone else, I just want things to get back to the way they used to be, because I think we teach better and interact with each other better,” Garrison said.

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

Alex Terr contributed to the reporting in this story.