UW-Madison will require faculty, staff and students to wear face coverings in all campus buildings beginning Thursday, according to an email sent from the Chancellor’s Office to the campus community Tuesday.
“The recent arrival in the U.S. of the more infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 has led to a steep rise in cases across the country, including here in Wisconsin. Vaccination rates in Dane County and on campus are higher than in other parts of the state and U.S. and this has helped limit the impact of the Delta variant. However, the virus continues to spread rapidly among unvaccinated people, which has contributed to an uptick in cases,” the email reads.
According to the email, students will not be required to wear masks in their dorm rooms, but will be required to wear them in common areas of residence halls. Staff may remove masks when working alone in closed offices. Masks are not required outdoors.
The announcement comes hours after the Republican-controlled Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules of the state legislature voted along party lines to force the University of Wisconsin System to have any COVID-related rules or restrictions approved by the legislature.
The Chief of Staff for State Senator Steve Nass, the chair of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, wrote in an email to Madison365 that the university “has 30 days to come into compliance with state law by either submitting an emergency rule covering their Covid-19 mandates or ceasing such mandates. Senator Nass believes in the end the UW System will comply with state law. However, if the UW System decides to act unlawfully in the same manner as Governor Evers and former DHS Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm did last year, then Senator Nass will support legal challenges to force compliance.”
The requirement comes amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases. On Tuesday, the state reported nearly 1,400 new cases, increasing the seven-day average to 854. Additionally, the positive test rate has spiked to 7.2 percent.
Several private colleges and universities, including Marquette University in Milwaukee and Lawrence University in Appleton, are requiring students to be vaccinated before they return to campus.
This piece has been updated to include a response from the office of State Senator Steve Nass.