COVID-19 Public Health Update: Effective Monday, Feb. 21, Masking at Level Blue – Syracuse University News

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families:
Thank you for your continued commitment to safeguarding the health and well-being of our community throughout the COVID pandemic. As you are aware, shortly after the start of the fall semester, the University’s COVID level was elevated to “Red” based on increasing COVID cases, hospitalizations and test positivity rates on campus, in Central New York and across New York state. The University’s COVID level has remained at “Red” since Aug. 28. However, today I am writing to inform you that effective Monday, Feb. 21, our campus will transition to level “Blue.”
What does this action mean for you?
As defined by our COVID framework, level “Blue” indicates an elevated level of transmission risk on campus. “Blue” campus masking guidelines mean:
Why did the University make this decision?
On Thursday, Feb. 10, the New York State Department of Health allowed its existing statewide indoor masking order to expire, and the Onondaga County Health Department did the same. This action was in response to dramatically declining COVID cases across the state and here in Onondaga County. Locally, the Onondaga County Health Department is reporting that the weekly average number of new cases in the county has declined by 85% since mid-January, and hospitalizations have decreased by 58%.
In addition, as a campus community we are extraordinarily well-protected from the potential negative health implications associated with the COVID illness. I’m pleased to share that as of today, 100% of eligible faculty and 99% of eligible staff are compliant with the University’s COVID vaccine and booster requirements. Less than 2.3% of students are not yet compliant with our booster policy, and we are working with that group of students to bring them into compliance as soon as possible. Further, while new case data continues to fluctuate on a daily basis, the trend has been a consistent decline in new cases relative to January’s numbers. In addition, surveillance testing data has returned consistently low rates of test positivity on campus. Last week’s test positivity stemming from our random surveillance program was 1% (down from 2% the previous week and 2.2% the week prior).
Recent policy changes associated with indoor masking for vaccinated individuals announced by the New York State Department of Health and Onondaga County Health Department—combined with the extraordinary vaccination and booster compliance among students, faculty and staff and also data suggesting declining levels of campus transmission—have informed this action.
Are masks required at the stadium?
At this time, Syracuse University will continue to require masks at events in the stadium, except when patrons are actively eating or drinking. However, we are currently engaged with public health officials and other large venue operators across New York state to assess possible adjustments to our current stadium masking requirements for vaccinated individuals. Given those conversations and our continued monitoring of local conditions, we will communicate any anticipated changes to the masking policy.
These changes mean enhanced autonomy to vaccinated individuals related to indoor masking on campus. At the same time, it is also important to note that many among us will choose to continue masking while on campus. We fully support those individuals and ask that as a community, we continue to demonstrate respect, grace and empathy toward each other as individuals and families continue to navigate the daily challenges associated with COVID.
Thank you to everyone in our community for your continued cooperation and adherence to the University’s public health guidelines, and for your ongoing commitment to a safe and healthy campus.
J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation
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