March 18, 2022 Updating Indoor Face Covering Requirements

The following message was sent to the University of Portland community on March 18, 2022.

Dear University of Portland Community,

We write to communicate to the entire Pilot Community regarding the status of indoor mask requirements beginning on Monday, March 21. Many thanks to the 1,920 community members - students, staff, and faculty - who responded to the COVID-19 Steering Committee’s survey last week! The survey results were published in the Beacon and are also available on the Pilots Prevent Website. These results, along with several other factors, have led the COVID-19 Steering Committee to recommend, and the President’s Leadership Cabinet to approve, the following change to the UP indoor mask requirement:

Effective Monday, March 21, 2022, the indoor mask requirement at the University of Portland will be lifted in all campus spaces except classrooms while teaching is actively taking place and all spaces in the Health and Counseling Center (HCC). Masks will continue to be required in classrooms and the HCC at least through the end of the Spring 2022 semester, Friday, April 29. Classrooms include lecture halls, labs, and any other indoor space where active teaching of students is taking place. Guidance for masking requirements in performance spaces (e.g., music performance classes, private studio lessons, theater performance classes, dance studio classes, rehearsals and performances, etc.) will be communicated by the Performing and Fine Arts Department. This requirement does not apply to student clubs, trainings, meetings, or other activities that may take place in classroom spaces.

Faculty or staff who occupy individual offices across campus may elect to require any visitor to that office to wear a mask. Staff members who work in common spaces and are concerned about this change are encouraged to discuss options with their supervisor. A message from Dana Lopez, Vice President for Human Resources, will be sent to supervisors with further guidance and support. 

Any sponsoring department or unit that would like to require masks for an indoor event, especially those including a large number of off-campus visitors, are welcome to make that choice. Such events may include, but are not limited to, music festivals, campus speakers, and admissions events. A decision on whether masks will be required at indoor commencement events will be made by mid-April, based on the state of the pandemic at that time.

As the Steering Committee reported last week, this recommendation is based on several factors, including the declining number of positive cases in Oregon, the low positivity rate (less than 3%), and the continuing decline in hospitalizations and case severity. (For the latest case counts and vaccination compliance at UP, please see our dashboards. The CDC has placed Multnomah County in the low-risk category, and guidance from both the CDC and Oregon Health Authority indicates that required indoor masking for all individuals is no longer necessary.

Please note that UP has not had any cases of COVID-19 transmission in a classroom setting. In fact, data suggest that college classrooms continue to be at low risk for transmission. However, the survey data indicate that many faculty and students will feel safer in a classroom setting if all individuals continue to wear masks. We realize that some members of our community will need to continue masking indoors due to being immunocompromised or to protect a loved one. Many others will likely choose to wear a mask for a while longer, as individual mask wearing remains an effective safety measure to protect oneself, regardless of whether others wear masks.

Regardless of the reason, wearing a mask will continue to be an option for any member of the UP community, and we will continue to show support, respect and empathy for those individuals who either must continue to wear a mask or choose to do so. We ask that you please avoid speculating or making assumptions as to an individual’s reasons for wearing a mask. We ask, also, that you kindly comply with the directives of staff or faculty who ask that you wear a mask in their offices, and at large-scale indoor events at which a mask requirement is in effect.

The COVID-19 Steering Committee will continue to monitor case numbers on campus, in Multnomah County, in Oregon and beyond and any new variants that might appear concerning.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s tap into our community’s abundance of kindness, patience, and understanding. Let’s assume good intentions of one another and demonstrate care and compassion for all who live, work, and study on The Bluff.

Together, as Pilots, let’s continue to keep our community safe as we advance our mission of teaching and learning, faith and formation, and service and leadership.

Sincerely,

Herbert A. Medina, Ph.D.
Acting President & Provost