UCLA will reinstate an indoor mask-wearing mandate for all students, staff and visitors to campus facilities beginning Friday, May 27. However, despite rising COVID-19 rates in the area, no other colleges appeared to be making such a move this week.
“Last week alone, UCLA had almost 870 new cases, which would put us at the ‘severe’ level according to the UCLA COVID-19 Pivot Matrix,” read a letter that UCLA Vice Chancellor Michael J Beck and Professor Megan McEvoy, Co-Chair of the UCLA COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force.
“It is important for us to respond to current trends so that we can reduce the risk of infection without disrupting in-person learning and campus activities, including graduation ceremonies,” they wrote.
The Los Angeles County Department of Health on Thursday, May 26, reported 6,245 new confirmed cases of the virus, the latest grim news in a week-long spike in daily infection rates.
Last week, DPH reported that community transmission – which has been rising steadily in recent weeks – has moved up to the “intermediate” tier, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although hospital admissions are also increasing, they have not been increasing at the same worrying pace. As of May 26, about 429 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 across the county, up from 410 the previous day. Just weeks ago, the rate was below 200. But the numbers are nowhere near the rates that blocked hospitals in the area at the peak of the winter surge.
Experts say more spikes will be fueled by the upcoming Memorial Day and 4th of July bank holiday weekends.
Los Angeles County director of public health Barbara Ferrer said during her weekly COVID-19 briefing May 26 that she “welcomes” UCLA’s decision to reinstate its mask mandate.
“None of us want to see rising cases, none of us want to see our health care systems being stressed, and certainly none of us want to see people with serious illnesses,” Ferrer said. “We’re grateful for UCLA’s support — we believe it will make a difference.”
In addition to requiring masks to be worn in all campus buildings and UCLA-owned facilities, the policy strongly recommends wearing masks indoors off campus. The message to campus said that “off-campus, indoor gatherings should be reconsidered where limited mask-wearing is expected, e.g. B. where people eat and drink”.
Masks are required at indoor graduation ceremonies, although graduates may remove their masks temporarily when walking across the stage to receive their diploma or when being photographed on or off the stage. Opening speakers are also allowed to remove their masks while delivering their remarks.
The mask requirement will remain in place until at least June 15th. Weekly COVID testing is also required until that date.
“With just two weeks until the end of the school year, let’s all do our part to keep ourselves and our entire Bruin community healthy and to support our common mission to start a safer summer,” Beck and McEvoy wrote.
Across Los Angeles County, however, most universities have yet to announce changes to their on-campus masking policies, a sample of schools revealed Thursday.
Cal State Long Beach made face masks optional campus-wide in April — and has no plans to reinstate their mandate anytime soon, according to News Media Director Greg Woods.
Carson’s CSU Dominguez Hills has required face coverings in classrooms, labs and at their student health center since April 7. According to university spokeswoman Lilly McKibbin, masks are optional outdoors and in offices with no current plan to update this policy in the works.
Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut has also called for indoor masks for its spring session – but not for its summer session. No further talks are currently on the table, according to the college spokesman.
Whittier College, which just finished its spring semester with its May 24 graduation, requires masks for indoor campus facilities. The university is not planning any changes to that policy for the summer session, university spokeswoman Ana Lilia Barraza said, as classes will be held virtually.
Rio Hondo College has not changed its mask requirement, spokeswoman Ruthie Retana said. Face masks are required at all times, indoors and out.
And Azusa Pacific University said that while it is following LA County guidelines, it does not currently require masks indoors and has no plans to change at this time.
Authors Mike Sprague and Robert Morales and the City News Service contributed to this report