Universal indoor mask mandate remains in place at URI campuses

You likely have heard the news today that Gov. Dan McKee is lifting indoor masking requirements and proof of vaccination for attendance at indoor events on Friday, Feb. 11. He is also lifting the state mask mandate for schools effective March 4, after which districts will be empowered to make their own decisions regarding masking. He did not address mask mandates at universities and colleges.

URI’s universal indoor mask mandate remains in place until further notice.

Many would see the governor’s remarks as positive and welcome news. In light of this information, we want to assure our community that we continue to monitor transmission of the virus on our campuses. We will look to adjust some of our mitigation strategies, such as masking, when we feel it is safe to do so and in coordination with the recommendations of our public health professionals at the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, we continue to see increased numbers of cases associated with the University, which is not unusual at this time in the semester.

According to recent news reports, the CDC’s director said it is not yet time to drop the mask mandates, even as more states lift them.

We need to remind our community members that unlike local school districts, the University has a large residential population on campus and a large population of students living closely together in off-campus homes. These are both key factors as we consider changing the University’s COVID-19 mandates and policies.

Everyone has worked extremely hard to deliver an outstanding in-person experience at URI this year, and things are going well this semester. But we can’t let our guard down.

We want to finish the semester in a vital and robust way, with in-person classes, theater, music, athletic and other student and academic activities continuing through the last day of classes. We also want to protect our students, faculty and staff from serious illness and hospitalizations. Vaccination is still the best way to prevent the spread of the virus and serious illness. We strongly encourage community members to get their booster doses or get their first series of vaccinations.

Like many in the state, we are encouraged by the drop in cases and hospitalizations, but COVID-19 can still be fatal. We will continue to be encouraged by the trends, but also proceed with an abundance of caution.