University of Iowa changes phrasing regarding masking on campus

University websites previously stated that wearing a mask was “strongly encouraged,” while websites now say “face masks are not required, but welcome.”


Kate Perez, News Reporter

On the University of Iowa website for the Best Practices for Staying Healthy, the university now advises that “face masks are not required, but welcome.”

That is a change in language from masks being “strongly encouraged,” as the university website and officials previously said. The change comes after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention metrics placed Johnson County in a “medium” level for COVID-19, and local governments are dropping mask mandates.

The website asks that UI community members wear a mask if they have symptoms, test positive for COVID-19, or are exposed to someone with COVID-19.

“You should feel comfortable wearing a mask if you choose,” the website states. “Please be respectful of one another and do not pressure a student, visitor, or employee to wear, or not wear, a mask.”

UI policy and federal law still require face mask usage while riding CAMBUS, the website clarifies.

The university is still strongly encouraging students, faculty, and staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to its vaccine webpage.

This is the latest change in the UI’s mask policy, which has varied throughout the pandemic in response to severity and state government requirements.

In August 2020, as students returned to campus after going online in the middle of the spring semester, masks were required in campus buildings. That requirement extended through the end of the spring 2021 semester, when state Board of Regents President Mike Richards lifted the state of emergency on regent universities, requiring Iowa’s public universities to drop their mask mandates.

In May 2020, the university’s COVID webpage said fully vaccinated people weren’t required to wear masks, aligning with CDC guidance at the time. By August 2021, as the delta variant of the coronavirus was driving cases higher again and the CDC reversed its mask guidance, the UI said masks were “strongly encouraged” but didn’t reinstate a requirement.

The CDC’s recent county-specific guidance regarding face mask usage does not recommend healthy people in low or medium-level counties wear masks. The CDC only recommends wearing a mask indoors in public when a county is at a high transmission level.

In an email sent to building coordinators on Thursday, the university said Custodial Services will be removing signs on university buildings that said face masks are encouraged. The email provided building coordinators with a link to new optional signage that says “face masks welcome.”

A sign saying “Face masks welcome” is available for building coordinators to put outside buildings.