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Becoming a “Mask-Flexible” Campus

Mask mandate to begin changing on February 28

Dear Community Members, 

As COVID conditions improve, many schools and cities have been rescinding mask mandates in their communities, and we have recently received a letter from Secretaries James Peyser and Marylou Sudders strongly encouraging campuses to transition back to “near normal conditions”. While the pandemic is not yet over, conditions are improving throughout the Commonwealth.  

I am sure that many on our campus are wondering what this means for Salem State. Given these favorable trends, in the weeks ahead Salem State will transition to a mask-flexible environment. A mask-flexible environment means that masks would be optional in certain circumstances and locations, with individuals choosing for themselves whether or not to wear a mask depending on the situation, their own comfort level, or for medical reasons.  

The timeline for transitioning our campus to mask-flexible environment is as follows: 

Monday, February 28: Residence Halls, Dining Halls and Gassett Fitness Center (athletics will continue to follow MASCAC guidelines) 

Monday, March 7: Classrooms, offices, and events* 

* masks may be required at some events depending on event size and organizer requirements in consultation with Elisa Castillo and Gene Labonte, our campus COVID-19 safety team leaders. 

Our ability to transition to a mask-flexible environment is due to consistent, low positivity rates on our campus, coupled with a high vaccination rate among members of our campus community, and the continuation of our other mitigation strategies such as 75% occupancy. Currently, less than one percent of those who are tested at our on-campus testing site are positive. This is down from a 25% positivity rate at the beginning of January. Our vaccination rate is in the 92-97% range, depending on population. In addition to campus health data, external factors such as regional positivity rates, MWRA wastewater results, and capacity at area hospitals, all support a return to normalcy. You can learn more about these metrics at the following sites: 

Salem State University COVID-19 Dashboard 

Massachusetts Department of Public Health COVID-19 Dashboard 

MWRA Wastewater COVID-19 Tracking 

As we transition to a mask-flexible environment, we ask our community to be respectful of each other’s choices. This may mean keeping a mask in your pocket or bookbag so that you have one available if needed. As there may remain certain circumstances where masks may be required, we have updated our COVID-19 webpages with an FAQ to assist our campus with this transition. 

As with all aspects of the pandemic, we will continue to monitor COVID-19 and be responsive to changes in conditions as warranted. Being responsive means that our mitigation strategies and safety protocols could be modified if the data or conditions change.  

In closing, I would like to remind our community that vaccines remain our best protection against COVID-19 and that the COVID booster has been mandated on our campus for students and employees. If you have not yet received your booster, we are hosting our last on-campus booster clinic at the North Campus Dining Hall on Tuesday, February 22 from 2-7 pm. You can pre-register for the booster here. If you have already received your booster, please remember to upload proof of booster vaccination to the student health portal or CoVerified (employees) as soon as possible.  

As always, if you have a COVID-19 safety question, please email ssucovid19info@salemstate.edu.Thanks for all that you have done to help keep our community healthy. 

John D. Keenan 
President 

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