The University of Wyoming will further ease some COVID-19 requirements this summer as it transitions to a traditional fall 2021 semester.
Starting Monday, May 17, UW will follow the current Wyoming Department of Health order that requires masks in educational settings indoors only when social distancing can’t be maintained. This is an expansion of the university’s earlier decision that, starting May 8, masks are no longer required outdoors on campus — and it follows new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people who are fully vaccinated can go without masks or physical distancing in most cases, even when they are indoors or in large groups.
Additionally, when the state Department of Health order expires, or if the university receives an exception to the order, UW will not require masks and social distancing for those who are vaccinated — and will only recommend masks and distancing indoors for those who are not vaccinated — for both indoor and outdoor settings on UW properties. The state health order currently extends through May 31.
The adjustment to the summer plan was approved May 14, by the UW Board of Trustees.
“We are taking this step with the acknowledgment that COVID-19 vaccines are widely available and that, in the vast majority of cases, the decision whether to be vaccinated comes down to a personal choice,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “It is our sincere hope that all of our employees and students who are medically able will choose to be vaccinated. We are planning additional incentives and informational efforts in our strong encouragement of vaccination. The science also informs us that the vaccines are highly effective and safe. It also tells us that, for those who are fully vaccinated, infections are extremely rare and that the few infections that have occurred among the fully vaccinated are not severe. I strongly recommend that everyone get vaccinated.”
UW announced earlier that it is proceeding with plans for face-to-face classes at maximum capacity this fall, along with face-to-face student engagement programs, in-person athletics experiences and the like. The Board of Trustees voted March 26, to “fully reopen” the university “consistent with the health policy guidelines and directives of the state and federal governments regarding COVID-19.”
In concert with a directive from Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, UW is not requiring employees or students to be vaccinated for COVID-19. However, those who are vaccinated are required to report it — to allow the university to track overall vaccination numbers.
Students who receive their COVID-19 vaccinations should upload documentation to the Student Health Service patient portal as soon as their vaccine series is complete. According to UW, this is as simple as taking a photo of your vaccination document and uploading the picture here using your regular UW user ID and password.
For employees, a quick reference guide has been created to help record this information within HCM.
While requirements for masks and distancing this summer have been eased, other parts of the previously approved summer plan remain. Employees who are fully vaccinated are allowed to travel with no requirement for COVID-19 testing. And, the university’s requirement for students and employees spending time on campus to be tested for the virus at least once per week will be lifted July 1, as will use of the COVID Pass.
To help track the prevalence of the virus among the community, UW is making plans for a limited testing program beginning July 1. It will consist of voluntary diagnostic testing that is free to the public, staff, faculty and students; and random sample diagnostic testing of 3 percent of the entire UW community on a weekly basis. Faculty, staff and students who have been fully vaccinated for two weeks — or who have been tested in the previous five days — will be able to opt out of the random sample testing.
UW officials will continue to assess those requirements and others — informed by guidance from state and federal agencies — on a weekly basis throughout the summer term.
“We are on track to be very close to a pre-pandemic environment for the fall semester,” Seidel said. “A major outbreak of some new, dangerous COVID variant that is resistant to the vaccines could cause us to reassess, but we are very optimistic about a traditional fall semester. Widespread vaccination will only add to the level of safety for our community. Of course, those who feel more comfortable wearing masks and distancing are certainly allowed to do so.”
While employees currently working remotely will start returning to their pre-pandemic workplaces June 7, the university is implementing a more flexible work policy, including allowing flexible hours and some remote work if it maximizes productivity and effectiveness for the benefit of individual units and the university. Supervisors will have the opportunity for training on management of employees who work remotely.