This message is sent on behalf of Executive Vice President Hof Milam, Provost Rogan Kersh and Vice President for Campus Life Shea Kidd Brown.
Dear Wake Forest community,
We write today with a sense of optimism that declining rates of COVID-19, both locally and nationally, signal a new stage of the pandemic and a much-welcomed respite for our University community. Community mandates designed to mitigate risks to public health are in a period of transition around the country, shifting towards personal risk assessment and mitigation strategies focused on individual health needs. This has been made possible in large part by broad access to personal protective measures, such as vaccines and boosters. We are grateful for your cooperation with the campus protocols that allowed our community to reach this point.
With a phased approach starting March 5, Wake Forest will begin to lift the campus mask requirement based on a process that reflects available data and the guidance of public health experts.
How we arrived at this decision:
On February 17, Governor Cooper encouraged schools and local governments to end mask mandates, and Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines announced the city-wide mask mandate will be lifted on March 1. Winston-Salem Forsyth County schools announced that effective February 28 masks will be optional in all spaces except transportation vehicles.
Our decisions regarding campus COVID protocols are influenced by these local public health guidelines as well as our own campus health data. A University collaborative working group and a decision steering committee coordinate all protocols and decisions with input from Director of Student Health Service Dr. Cecil Price, infectious disease expert Dr. Chris Ohl, and a data review group composed of faculty and staff. Dr. Ohl has specifically advised that we may begin easing pandemic restrictions. This is a positive step in line with the low number of infections among students, faculty and staff, and the result of full University compliance with booster vaccination requirements.
Finally, we continue to monitor relevant indicators of potential risks to our campus community and are prepared to make adjustments as needed in the future.
How we will implement new protocols:
Wake Forest will initiate a stepped approach to modifying our campus protocols on the following timeline:
- Tuesday, March 1: All current protocols and policies remain in place with masking required indoors. During a virtual forum for faculty and staff at 4 p.m. on March 1, we will provide a detailed update and public health rationale for the modifications to the University’s mask requirements taking effect March 5 and March 19. A message to the campus community with further details about these COVID protocol updates will also be provided on March 1.
- Saturday, March 5 (the first day of spring break on the Reynolda campus): Masks will continue to be required in classrooms, healthcare facilities and on University transportation. Use of masks will be optional in most other indoor campus spaces.
- Saturday, March 19 (the Saturday after students return from spring break): Masks will still be required in healthcare facilities and on University transportation but will be optional in all other locations. Please remember that you may choose to wear a mask for your personal protection even if others are not masked. Faculty and staff may request students and colleagues wear masks in their respective classrooms, meeting spaces and individual offices through the end of the semester. Faculty, staff and students with underlying health conditions can submit a request for reasonable accommodations through the normal accommodation processes.
During this time of transition, please continue to carry a mask with you at all times and follow any instructions that might require masking in a particular situation or indoor location.
Most importantly, we urge you to continue to demonstrate respect and kindness for one another’s personal risk tolerance and wellbeing, as well as empathy for those whose assessment of risk may differ from your own. Anyone who needs to, or prefers to, wear a mask in any setting should be welcomed to do so.
We will continue to consult with public health professionals and rely on data to guide our approach. We are grateful for your continued partnership and patience.
Executive Vice President
Shea Kidd Brown
Vice President for Campus Life