Mask Optional FAQs

Does the CDC identify Pierce County as a COVID hotspot?

  • In Governor Inslee’s announcement, it was noted that the CDC still considered Pierce County as “High Covid-19 Community Level” however Washington state has continued to maintain the most accurate and up-to-date data on COVID-19.
  • PLU has been in close contact with the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) throughout the pandemic. Dr. Anthony Chen of TPCHD, has stated that Pierce County would go along with the state lift of the mandate. TPCHD later provided an updated post that shares why the CDC data was not accurate. As of Friday, 3/11 the CDC has updated community levels. Pierce County is more accurately categorized in the “Medium level”.

What are other Washington state colleges and universities doing in response to the removal of the statewide mask mandate?

The many Washington state colleges and universities are transitioning to a mask optional policy, including UW and others. Some campuses have different dates depending on their own campus situation. A university, for example, may be waiting until after spring break, but their break is next week. PLU and many other private universities are on a semester schedule rather than quarters.

Why is PLU going mask optional now? …instead of after Spring Break? …instead of the end of the semester?

Travel is not of the same concern that it was in the early days of the pandemic. There are no longer travel restrictions between states and in most situations there is not a return/entrance testing requirement. We continue to have testing opportunities available on campus and recommend students to test whenever returning. Masks are still required in airports and other transportation modalities. If traveling, please wear a mask in all required areas, preferably a KN-95 or similar mask. PLU has masks available if you need one (Old Main Market, Campus Safety).

What is the process at PLU when it comes to changing policies regarding COVID-19?

Policies regarding issues of health and safety are created based on guidance from officials that have experience and expertise related to the issue. Policies related specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic have been guided by our local health department (Tacoma Pierce County Health Department; TPCHD). PLU has been in close contact with the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) throughout the pandemic.

How is removing the mask mandate living out PLU’s mission of care?

As we move into yet another new stage of this pandemic – and into an endemic stage – it is important that our community transitions to choosing to take personal responsibility rather than mandated responsibility. As an institution of higher education, PLU must educate students about the pandemic and about how to take responsibility for managing the spread of the virus and to care for all members of the community.

How can students and employees who wish to continue wearing their masks be supported, especially in settings that include maskless performance (e.g. music and athletics)?

Anyone wishing to continue to wear masks should do so in all settings that make them feel comfortable. The state of Washington has active laws that protect the rights of students (and workers) to continue wearing masks if they choose to do so. A student can still wear a mask in a maskless performance and should not be pressured to remove their mask.  Any member of the community that feels pressure to remove their mask when they are uncomfortable doing so, should speak with their supervisor, professor or another authority.

How is testing being made available as a part of our mitigation efforts?

Testing will continue to be offered on campus in the AUC and at the Curative kiosk in the Health Center lot. The PLU Health Center can also perform covid testing when seeing patients for symptoms. Testing efforts in the AUC were ramped up in January during the Omicron variant surge, but are being settled back into a more regular 2 day a week schedule. The new Curative kiosk was added in February and resulted in broader, more accessible testing opportunities on campus.

Are vaccinations still required?

Vaccinations are required for all students and employees. Those that are exempt are asked to test weekly and report test results. Boosters continue to be strongly encouraged and are available on campus every Wednesday and Saturday through March 23.

Additional FAQs from the Task Force

Am I protected if I wear a mask and others around me don’t? (one way masking)

Yes, a recent CDC study explained that “In addition to being up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccinations, consistently wearing a comfortable, well-fitting face mask or respirator in indoor public settings protects against acquisition of SARS-CoV-2 infection; a respirator offers the best protection.”

With masks now optional, what other measures are still in place?

PLU is committed to ensuring access to testing, maintaining our improved ventilation standards, extending on campus clinics for vaccines/boosters until March 23rd, and maintaining quarantine/isolation capacity as well as screening testing for people who have been exposed to Covid-19.

What else can I do to protect myself and show care for those around me?

Wearing a face mask will continue to protect you, in addition to staying up to date on covid vaccinations and boosters. You can show care to the community by testing when you think you could have been exposed to covid, reporting to the PLU Health Center (students) or your supervisor (staff/faculty) if you test positive. Most importantly, staying home when you are sick is the best way to show care for those around you!

Will face masks ever be required again on campus?

Possibly. PLU will continue to follow public health guidance by abiding state and local mandates, or through consultation with our partners at TPCHD.

What are the recommendations for those who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness during this phase of covid?

From the CDC – If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions (e.g., testing)
  • Have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing)
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies