COVID Public Health Update: Reviewing State and County Mask Guidance

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families:

Today, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the New York State Department of Health will not extend the existing statewide order requiring that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, are masked indoors while in public settings and venues. That statewide order expires tomorrow, Feb. 10. Masks will continue to be required in health care facilities and in public K-12 schools. The governor cited the significant decline in both new cases and hospitalizations as key factors that informed this decision.

In just the last seven days, the number of new COVID cases in Onondaga County has declined by 41%, and new COVID-related hospitalizations have declined by 20%. On the heels of today’s announcement, the Onondaga County executive has indicated indoor mask requirements for vaccinated individuals will be eliminated countywide, except in K-12 schools. Understandably, the governor’s announcement today, coupled with the positive COVID data trends in our community and on campus, have prompted many members of our community to inquire about the future of masking on our campus.

Much like the state and the county, the trend on our campus is moving in a positive direction as the pandemic evolves to an endemic. As a result, over the next seven to 10 days, the University and the Public Health Team will continue to closely monitor COVID data and trends on campus and across our Central New York community. Since the beginning of the pandemic, science has driven our decision-making. This includes new daily case counts, surveillance positivity rates, local hospitalizations and other relevant metrics. If these data remain at low levels, the University will take action to adjust the on-campus masking protocols accordingly. The most likely initial action toward easing on-campus masking requirements is to return to level “BLUE” on our masking framework. This would preserve the requirement that all individuals remain masked in classrooms and recommending—but not requiring—vaccinated and boosted individuals to be masked in most other indoor settings on campus.

Today, our current count of active cases is at its lowest level since the beginning of the spring semester, and our seven-day average test positivity rate has now declined to below 2%. Results from campus wastewater testing have yielded similarly positive results. Just this week, residence hall testing of Lawrinson, Haven, DellPlain, the Mount and Shaw all returned undetectable levels of virus in the wastewater, suggesting no active infections among residents. This very positive situation has been enabled by the extraordinary efforts of students, faculty and staff to comply with the University’s COVID vaccination and booster requirement.

We are still reviewing the state and county guidance to understand any additional effects the end of the statewide mask mandate will have on our community, including as it relates to masking at the stadium. We will continue to update our community on any new developments, particularly as it relates to any forthcoming decision to alter our masking framework level.

Thank you for your continued attention to our public health guidelines. The positive trends we are experiencing are a testament to your commitment to the health and well-being of our campus and neighboring communities.

Sincerely,

J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation

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