CSU’s mask requirement will end Thursday

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(Graphic Illustration by Trin Bonner | The Collegian)

CTV News: Natalie Devereaux and Westyn Hubbard

Serena Bettis, Content Managing Editor

The Pandemic Preparedness Team at Colorado State University announced Wednesday morning that masks will no longer be required indoors on campus starting tomorrow, March 3.

“As President (Joyce) McConnell affirmed, CSU has been following national Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention) guidelines for high-transmission areas for all our campuses in Larimer County with the intention — approved by the (CSU System) Chancellor — of lifting the mask mandate when local transmission rates fall into the moderate range,” the announcement said.

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“Larimer County’s COVID-19 Dashboard currently reports, per 100,000 people in the last seven days: 102.2 new COVID-19 cases, 8.4 new hospital admissions and a seven-day average of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients at 5.7%.”

The PPT said masks will now be a “personal choice.” Masks are still required, however, in the Health and Medical Center, on the Around the Horn bus shuttle (per a federal mandate) and in the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“No CSU division, department, office, laboratory, class, supervisor or instructor may institute a mask protocol without first consulting with the Pandemic Preparedness Team,” the message said. “More information about how to request a specific individual mask protocol will be forthcoming; these requests will be considered by the Pandemic Preparedness Team on a case-by-case basis.”

Update, 10:50 a.m.:

This decision comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the way they classify COVID-19 transmission data. In a press briefing Feb. 25, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the new framework is meant to “direct our efforts toward protecting people at high risk for severe illness and preventing COVID-19 from overwhelming our hospitals and our healthcare systems.”

Greta Massetti, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Incident Management System, said at the press briefing that the COVID-19 level is determined by three different factors, including new COVID-19 cases, new hospitalizations for COVID-19 and the current number of hopsital beds occupied by patients with COVID-19.

The CDC now evaluates COVID-19 levels based on severity of the disease in the community and has categories of low, medium and high. At the time of McConnell’s last message about masks in February, the transmission levels were classified into four categories of low, moderate, substantial and high transmission.

The new metrics now first look at the number of new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days. The level is then determined by the new COVID-19-related hospital admissions per 100,000 people in the last seven days and the percent of “staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients” across a seven-day average.

If a community has over 200 new cases, they can only fall into the medium or high levels. For communities with fewer than 200 new cases, they will be in the low risk level if new hospital admissions and percent of occupied inpatient beds fall below 10, in the medium level if admissions are between 10.0 and 19.9 and occupied bed percentage is between 10.0 and 14.9% and in the high level if new admissions are at or above 20 and the occupied inpatient bed level is at or above 15%.

If the two metrics fall into different categories — for example, the new hospital admissions are under 10 (in the low level) but the bed occupancy in between 10.0 and 14.9% (in the medium level) — the CDC says communities should use the highest level that applies.

Larimer County’s COVID-19 Dashboard currently reports, per 100,000 people in the last seven days: 103 new COVID-19 cases, 8.4 new hospital admissions and a seven-day average of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients at 5.7%.

The Pandemic Preparedness Team’s message acknowledged that “opinions on mask protocols reflect individual concerns” and many people may still wear masks for a variety of reasons. The PPT recommends N95, KN95 and KF94 masks for best protection, and the CSU Bookstore can provide free N95 masks for community members who show a CSU ID.

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Reach Serena Bettis at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.