Mask Optional Policy Effective March 12
Dear Lewis & Clark Community,
As COVID cases rapidly decline in Oregon, Governor Kate Brown JD ’85 has announced that Oregon will no longer require universal mask wearing in schools or other indoor public settings beginning Saturday, March 12. As a result, universal indoor mask wearing will be optional in most circumstances at Lewis & Clark as of March 12. This action is also consistent with CDC guidance applicable to Multnomah County, which is now classified by the CDC as a low risk county.
We have, from the beginning, emphasized WeB4Me@LC. We know that public health is a community concern, not one that can be solved only by individuals acting alone. We have had great success at LC through hard work and compassion, including measures for vaccination, testing, self-check precautions, and isolation after exposure. We want to be consistent with the overall assessment of low COVID risk in Multnomah County, while acknowledging that low risk is not no risk, and that we do not all experience the same level of risk. Some of us are ourselves vulnerable, and some of us are in families, households, or communities with greater vulnerability to severe illness. In the spirit of WeB4Me, we are moving toward consistency with our state and our peer institutions by transitioning away from universal mask wearing, while operating as a community to define where mask wearing is still an important facet of participation and protection for our community members.
Masks remain required for anybody who has been exposed as a close contact of a person with COVID within the last ten days, and for anybody who has tested positive for COVID in the last ten days. Isolation requirements for those who test positive for COVID will remain in effect. We encourage anyone who wants or needs to maintain a high level of protection to continue masking based on their own needs and judgment. Based on state and federal guidance, masks also remain required in health and wellness services offices and on the Pio Express and other public transportation.
Masks may continue to be required in certain additional situations on campus. This may include:
- Large gatherings and classrooms where sustained and close physical contact is likely.
- Indoor settings where there is a significant likelihood of close contact with high-risk individuals.
- In classes that include students who have practicum or internship placements in the community, as communicated by the relevant dean or faculty member.
Places where mask-wearing continues to be required, such as particular classes or labs, will be clearly communicated by the relevant dean, vice president, office, or faculty member. Otherwise, masking will be optional.
It is advisable that you continue to carry a mask with you on campus. Masks will continue to be available in various locations on campus and can also be obtained by contacting email@example.com. Surgical or cloth masks are generally satisfactory for compliance with such requirements, although KN95 or equivalent masks remain more effective.
Each person should consider their own risk factors to determine the degree to which masking remains part of their individual COVID-19 protective practices. For members of our community who are themselves vulnerable or live with people vulnerable to severe illness, proper masking is an essential way to minimize the risk of transmission. We encourage anyone who wants or needs to maintain a high level of protection to continue masking. It is our hope that by transitioning to mask-optional everyone will feel comfortable making their individual choice while keeping the wellbeing of our community in mind–and trusting that others are doing the same. It is important that we all respect and support the decisions made by each other in this regard.
COVID is likely to become endemic and be with us to some degree for some time. Our best defense against COVID remains widespread vaccination–and we have achieved a very high vaccination rate on campus. Our mandatory vaccination policy will remain in effect indefinitely. The widespread availability of rapid testing for those with symptoms, and the immediate isolation of those with COVID, are also key pillars of our COVID mitigation strategy that will remain in place.
Our ability as a college community to make it through the pandemic is a testament to the compassion, caring, and hard work of all of us. These same values will successfully carry us through this next phase of the pandemic and through the remainder of the semester.