University of Texas makes masks optional inside buildings, outdoors

Education
Students walk past the tower at the University of Texas at Austin campus on February 4, 2020. Some in-person classes resumed on campus this week after a pause at the start of the semester due to a surge in COVID-19 cases locally. (KXAN Photo/Alyssa Goard)

Students walk past the tower at the University of Texas at Austin campus on February 4, 2020. Some in-person classes resumed on campus this week after a pause at the start of the semester due to a surge in COVID-19 cases locally. (KXAN Photo/Alyssa Goard)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In line with the federal and state recommendations, the University of Texas at Austin is making masks optional inside campus buildings and outdoors.

That’s according to a new May 19 letter from President Jay Hartzell. It said the mask changes will be in effect for upcoming commencement ceremonies and athletics competitions.

“We expect that some of those in attendance will wear masks and others will not — and for a variety of reasons. Ultimately, we will continue to respect one another,” Hartzell said in the letter.

UT said masks and social distancing will also be optional for people who are not fully vaccinated or have weakened immune systems but recommends masks be worn in these cases.

The change comes after promising case numbers in the campus community as well as increased vaccination efforts, the school said.

Hartzell said in the announcement their 100,000th dose of COVID-19 vaccine was administered in April, and the Proactive Community Testing program hasn’t seen a positive case since May 7. Additionally, “the last 1,191 tests have been negative.”

The university will continue to monitor cases and adjust its guidance should changes occur, the letter said. COVID-19 testing will remain accessible to the campus community, and contact tracing will still be a continued practice.

After commencement, the university is expected to release more details on returning to campus for the next semester and event and meeting guidance.

In the meantime, UT encourages students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated. You can sign up online here.

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