BREAKING: UVM to drop mask mandate March 19


Tyler Nachilly

A box of KN95 masks sits behind the front desk of the Davis Center on the first floor Jan. 21.

UVM announced plans to drop its indoor mask mandate beginning March 19, according to a March 16 email from Provost Patricia Prelock and Gary Derr, vice president for operations and public safety. 

Masks are still required at Student Health Services and at the symptomatic testing location in Jeanne Mance, according to the email. Masks are also required on UVM buses and other public transportation through April 18, in line with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration requirements. 

“From the beginning of the pandemic, we have steadfastly followed the guidance and recommendations of medical and public health professionals,” the email stated. “This has been one of the core elements of the University’s remarkable success—the other being your dedication and commitment.” 

This decision comes given that all eligible students are fully vaccinated and boosted, all employees are compliant with the vaccine policy with nearly 70% having received a booster, according to the email. The state has a low hospitalization rate for COVID-19 and PCR testing remains available for all UVM affiliates. 

The Vermont Department of Health no longer recommended public indoor masking as of March 14, according to a March 3 VTDigger article

The Executive Counsel on UVM’s faculty union, United Academics, emailed its listserv to address changing guidance March 16 following the University-wide email from administration. 

The email stated the Executive Counsel tried and failed in requesting a one-week delay in lifting the mask mandate to allow faculty more time to prepare. Administration also told the Executive Council faculty could not mandate masks in their own individual classrooms, according to the email. 

“We are disappointed, but not surprised, that the administration did not approach us sooner to share this with us or to invite faculty feedback,” the email stated. 

Still, UVM administration thanked its students, faculty and staff for their perseverance throughout the changing nature of the pandemic since the start. 

“Many of you did not have the option to work remotely because of the nature of your work,” the administration’s email stated. “But you came in and continued to keep UVM running in spite of the risk.” 

The University has a significant supply of rapid home antigen tests that will be made available free to faculty, staff and students soon, according to the email. UVM  will continue to monitor the situation and adjust its pandemic response plan if warranted. 

UVM recognizes that some may feel more comfortable continuing to mask and requests that others respect that decision, according to the email. 

“As we transition to the endemic phase and move away from requirements or mandates, personal responsibility will play an increased role,” UVM’s email stated. “Individually, we will have to make decisions based on our particular circumstances.” 

The administration encourages community members to test, mask and isolate as needed, especially if symptomatic, according to UVM’s email. Two new KN95 masks are available to each individual at the Testing Center in the Davis Center. 

If needed, UVM affiliates may contact SHS at 802-656-3350 to schedule a COVID-19 test. 

“From the bottom of our hearts, we give you our profound appreciation and immense gratitude,” UVM’s email stated. “It will be great to see your smiles again!”