To Mask or Not to Mask

UW System to drop mask mandates by Spring Break


Emilee Davis graphic

University of Wisconsin System President Tommy Thompson announced on Feb. 16 that UW universities will be lifting their mask mandates “as soon as Mar. 1 and no later than spring break.”

In a UW-System press release, Thompson is quoted as saying that “Wisconsin has one of the fastest rates of coronavirus decline in the country … while we will continue to take prudent prevention measures when warranted, restrictions can be lifted as case counts drop.”

He also cited the availability of vaccinations and boosters in making the virus “much less severe for people who take this individual responsibility to protect themselves and others.”

Within the press release, too, Thompson made mention of a “scientific consensus … that the novel coronavirus will likely be recurrent with some degree of ongoing transmission expected, possibly for several years or more.”

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services maintains a COVID-19 dashboard with actively updated data on seven-day averages for administered tests, positive tests, percent positive of tests administered and other metrics.

The DHS reported as of Feb. 22 that 63.8% of residents have received at least one dose and that 60.2% of residents have completed the vaccine series.

Grant County, however, is below the state average with 50.5% with at least one dose and with 47.7% of residents with a complete vaccine series. 

According to Wisconsin data from December 2021, “people not fully vaccinated were diagnosed with COVID-19 at a rate 3 (times) higher … hospitalized with COVID-19 at a rate 10 (times) higher … died from COVID-19 at a rate 14 (times) higher than people who were vaccinated.”

UW-Platteville Human Resources published a Frequently Asked Questions page to address concerns about the removal of the mask mandate.

As stated by the FAQ page, instructors and departments are not allowed to require masks in their classrooms, “department suites, conference rooms and shared spaces.”

Additionally, superiors may not ask employees or student employees about their vaccination status.

Thus far during the semester, UW-Platteville has given a total of 921 student tests and 179 employee tests with a cumulative 68 positive student tests and 16 positive employee tests.