Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Dear Members of the Campus Community

In March 2022, the nation entered a new phase of the pandemic. The CDC now recommends that new hospital admissions, the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and new cases per 100,000 people be considered in assessing the need for social distancing and masking. As a result, a color-coded risk assessment was introduced by the CDC by county: green indicating low risk, yellow indicating medium risk and red indicating high risk. Read more about these categories here.

In recent weeks Luzerne County has progressed from medium to low risk and the positivity rate on campus has also remained low. In addition, residential testing after spring break produced promising results: of the nearly 600 individuals tested, only one positive case was identified. As a result, Wilkes University is introducing a new mask-optional policy effective Thursday, March 17.

Generally speaking, students, faculty, staff and visitors can wear a mask if they feel more comfortable doing so. Several important exemptions are listed below:

  • Masks will continue to be required in medical and COVID-19 testing facilities on campus as well as in Health and Wellness Services and Campus Counseling.
  • Any individual who is experiencing COVID symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, etc.) and is awaiting a test or the results of a test must wear a mask.
  • Individuals who have tested positive for the virus within the past 10 days must wear a mask, per CDC guidance.
  • If you have been exposed to a positive case, you must wear a mask around others for 10 days, per CDC quarantine guidance.

It is important to note that our quarantine and isolation guidance remains unchanged. Learn more in our COVID-19 FAQs.

In addition:

  • Faculty members can require masks in their classrooms and labs. Faculty are responsible for clearly communicating these expectations to their students in advance. Students are expected to follow the classroom guidance set by their faculty members.  
  • Staff and faculty can determine if masks are required in their individual offices. They should communicate this to all office visitors. Signage is available from the print shop. 
  • Students must abide by the COVID-19 protocols set by the site of their internship, field hours, clinical experiences, etc. Student-athletes must follow athletic protocols on campus and when visiting other colleges and universities for competition.
  • Masks are recommended in shared University transportation.
  • Masks are recommended during any major events or large gatherings including lectures or commencement. Though not required, this week's Career and Internship Fair and Admitted Colonel Day are examples of large-scale events in which masks may be of good practice.

With flexibility and consideration at top of mind, bring a mask with you to campus and be prepared to use it as needed and as requested. Masking stations will continue to be located across campus.

It is important to note that assurance testing and the tracking of positive cases will continue and become even more important in reducing the spread. You must report to assurance testing if you are unvaccinated. Be sure to report a positive test result to Health and Wellness Services (students) or Human Resources (faculty/staff) when testing off campus.

Relaxing our standards is excellent progress and a great relief to many. It is important to know that the University will reintroduce indoor masking if the health situation changes on campus or in the community. We must also understand that there are members of our community who are at high risk for severe illness or hospitalization. I am confident that we will continue to show care and consideration for one another and respect individual choices and circumstances.

Be well and Be Colonel,

Greg Cant