Campus masking policies under review as COVID-19 cases decline

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masking under review 2022 streamUniversities nationwide are beginning to move to mask-optional policies as the surge from the omicron variant wanes, and UAB leaders and health experts monitoring COVID cases are expressing optimism while still urging caution. As a result, masks are still required indoors on campus while health and safety protocols — including masking policies — are reviewed for non-clinical facilities.

At this time, the overall level of community transmission and positive tests in Jefferson County remains in the high category, as currently defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health. The number of positive cases among UAB students has dropped significantly each week since the beginning of the academic term but are not yet as low as what was reached in the fall according to the UA System Covid-19 dashboard. Similarly, cases among campus employees have dropped more than 60% since the first of the year, though they are still more than what was reported at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester. At the same time, the number of active COVID case hospitalizations at UAB Hospital has dropped to 90.   

“We can be encouraged by the signs we see around us — and still be guided by the data gathered in our own community,” said epidemiologist Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., professor in the UAB School of Public Health and a key adviser on UAB’s COVID-19 Incident Command Committee. “Our prevention strategies, such as masking and vaccines, are contributing to the decrease in positive cases, disease severity and hospitalizations. And these, combined with the growing availability of treatment options, is bringing us closer to the point in which COVID is a more manageable public health challenge, such as the flu.”

For now, Judd says, the committee will continue to monitor community risks and recommend changes in UAB strategies for campus as circumstances and CDC guidance safely permits; UAB Medicine and its facilities will continue to follow requirements specific to health care settings. She encourages all who have not been vaccinated to get one of the free vaccines available on campus Monday through Friday.

Continue to look to official UAB communications for updates as policies evolve. Any official changes in UAB safety protocols also will be posted on the UAB United site.