March 10, 2022 Indoor Face Covering Requirements

The following message was sent to University of Portland students, faculty, and staff from the Covid-19 Steering Committee on March 10, 2022.

We hope that everyone had a restful break. As many of you have heard, Oregon will lift its indoor mask mandate on March 12. The Oregon Health Authority made this recommendation based on significant declines in hospitalizations due to the virus over the last few weeks, and a decline in new infections by more than 90% from Oregon’s peak between January 17 and 23. Test positivity in Oregon has dropped below 5%. The CDC has placed Multnomah County in the low-risk category. Given this data, the CDC and OHA guidelines that we have followed throughout the pandemic indicate to us that required indoor masking for all individuals may no longer be necessary.

As of Tuesday, March 8, the latest data for COVID cases on the UP campus is as follows:

  • There were 3 positive cases (among faculty, staff, and students) of COVID-19 reported for the week ending March 6.  
  • Our community is over 90% compliant with our vaccination policy which requires two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the J & J vaccine, and a vaccine booster; or an approved exemption. Compliance is almost 96% for full-time employees and 89% for undergraduate students. (See our dashboards for the most current data.)

The COVID-19 Steering Committee is studying the best course forward for the UP community regarding indoor masking. We are bearing in mind the new CDC and OHA guidelines, investigating the plans of neighboring colleges and universities (most will make masks optional no later than March 19), and considering input from key campus constituencies, including the Academic Senate and ASUP. Thus far, we have determined that with so many in the UP community having traveled during spring break, it is wise for UP to maintain our indoor masking requirement on campus at least through Sunday, March 20. To help inform how UP moves forward beyond these two weeks, however, the COVID-19 Steering Committee would like to hear the opinions of our community members regarding being indoors with other unmasked individuals, whether in the classrooms or in other campus spaces. Feedback from our community will provide another perspective to help inform our policy recommendation to the President’s Leadership Cabinet regarding masking indoors at UP beyond these two weeks. Thus, we ask you to participate in a brief survey regarding the possibility of removing the campus indoor mask requirement beginning on March 21.  

[The survey closed on Sunday, March 13.]

Please know that no matter what we decide, classes will remain in person for the remainder of the semester and commencement will be in person. At the same time, some members of our community will need to continue masking indoors due to being immunocompromised or to protect a loved one. (For example, children 5 and under still do not have access to a vaccine.)  Likewise, any member of the community who has a vaccine exemption to remain non-vaccinated or non-boosted will be required to continue wearing a mask. Many others will likely choose to wear a mask for a while longer. Regardless of the reason, wearing a mask will always remain an option for all members of the UP community, and we will continue to show respect and empathy for those individuals who either must continue to wear a mask or choose to do so. 

We thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!  We will communicate a plan for indoor masking beyond March 20 by Thursday evening, March 17.

The Covid-19 Steering Committee