Changes to Masking Guidance – Faculty, Staff and Students

To: W&L Faculty, Staff and Students
From: COVID-19 Committee
Date: Friday, November 12

As we approach the upcoming Thanksgiving break, we are gratified to report several positive factors affecting the pandemic landscape on our campus.

First, we have maintained a very low number of active COVID-19 cases on our campus for the past several weeks. We currently have one active case among our student body and three active employee cases, and we have seen minimal evidence of the virus spreading in work or academic settings this term. This is, in large part, indicative of the high level of protection the COVID-19 vaccines provide our campus community.

Second, boosters for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are now available, and we strongly encourage eligible members of our campus community to get a booster to provide the best protection against the virus in the coming months.

Third, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is now authorized for children and adolescents ages five and up, as a two-dose series taken three weeks apart. Vaccines are now available at Central Shenandoah Health District (CSHD) clinics, local pharmacies, some pediatrician offices, and school-based clinics. Additionally, COVID-related hospitalizations are down across Virginia and regional hospital capacity has improved.

For these reasons, we have recommended, and President Dudley has approved, the following updated masking guidance on campus, effective Tuesday, Nov. 16.

Masks continue to be expected of everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in:

  • Indoor classrooms, regardless of size
  • Indoor meetings, regardless of size
  • Health care facilities, including the Student Health Center and University Counseling
  • Dining Facilities, when not actively eating
  • Indoor public spaces in non-residential buildings on campus, when individuals are walking through or are within six feet of others
  • When travelling in vehicles together, on or off campus, for university-sponsored purposes, including on Traveller

Masks are now optional for fully vaccinated individuals in:

  • Common areas in on-campus residences
  • Indoor public spaces on campus, except those listed above, when individuals are stationary (not moving through the space) and at least six feet from others; individuals working in spaces after hours when buildings are not densely populated may opt to remove their masks
  • The Fitness Center
  • Open or shared office spaces, when at your desk and stationary

All unvaccinated individuals, including visitors and those with medical or religious exemptions to the vaccine requirement, are required to wear a mask at all times when indoors on campus except in their private office or residence.

For example, if you are fully vaccinated, you may opt not to wear a mask when seated in study rooms/carrels in the library, but you are expected to put a mask on when walking through the library or interacting with others at locations such as the Information Desk. Similarly, in a shared office environment, if you are fully vaccinated, you may opt not to wear a mask while seated at your desk but are expected to put a mask on when walking through the office or standing at someone else's desk.

As a reminder, anyone who prefers to take the additional precaution of wearing a mask at any time is encouraged to do so, and no one should be discouraged from, or disparaged for, choosing to wear a mask and/or maintain a six-foot distance from others.

We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust masking requirements accordingly. We ask that you continue to be vigilant about masking in those places where it is expected, limiting close contacts, and paying attention to and reporting any symptoms.

We also encourage you to take make use of W&L's screening testing program, which provides optional PCR testing up to once per week for students, faculty and staff who wish to be tested, especially before and after the Thanksgiving break for those are traveling. Tests should be self-scheduled through the Aura application; instructions for self-scheduling through Aura can be found on the ITS website.