Utah Valley University announced on Wednesday that it will stop requiring masks on campus starting Monday.
The decision to end the on-campus mask requirement falls in line with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask, the end to the statewide mask mandate in state buildings, the “Endgame” Bill criteria being met, and other universities making the change to mask policies, according to UVU’s Emergency Management Director Robin Ebmeyer.
All of those changes listed above led to university officials getting together to discuss the COVID-19 health guidelines and mask requirement.
“We will no longer require masks on campus. They will be recommended, and our go live date for that is going to be May 24,” Ebmeyer said. “We are saying that we are a mask-friendly campus. We wish to be compassionate, show dignity, and respect to those that may want to continue wearing a mask just as much as those who don’t want to wear a mask. We don’t want to have contention as it relates to whether someone chooses to wear a mask or not.”
When asked about the requirement ending on Monday, Ebmeyer said that multiple dates were discussed but the university wanted to give the campus community a chance to process and digest the announcement with time to ask questions or express concerns before it goes into effect.
The pivot in focus from spacing and masking to vaccinations and testing will be emphasized on campus, with both of the latter being offered for free through the university.
Ebmeyer said that masks are still recommended though, adding that if someone is not vaccinated then they are recommended to wear a mask. For those that are vaccinated, they do not need to wear a mask unless they so choose.
“At some point and time it has to be about personal responsibility and personal choice,” Ebmeyer said when asked about health precautions being put on the shoulders of individuals.
With regards to how people on campus have been reacting to the mask mandate recently, with signs pointing to it being removed, Ebmeyer said that all of the emails she has received have been positive and in favor of removing it.
It’s been a long road for Ebmeyer, who has been front and center with the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and she said this announcement comes with a sigh of relief.
“Utter relief, just extreme relief,” Ebmeyer said. “I remember there was a day when it really set in that we weren’t going to be out of it till the spring. Somewhere in the spring or early summer there was a day where it dawned on me that we won’t be out of this till the spring of 2021. I just remember feeling so sad. I remember that day, I remember how it felt, and to finally get here, it’s all surreal.”
While that relief is there, Ebmeyer is cautious to jump the gun too early. She spoke to how careful and calculated UVU has been through the COVID-19 pandemic, but stressed that she will continue to watch the COVID-19 numbers like a hawk with the university possibly changing course if need be.
The big message for UVU remains that it does not want contention or shaming on campus surrounding masks being worn or not, with the hope that the university can move forward in a positive manner.