Protocols for Masks & Teaching, and Events

To Our Faculty:

I hope you are as excited as I am to see so many students back on campus today. After such a long stretch of staying apart and engaging online, seeing actual crowds pouring into classrooms and dining halls feels nothing short of inspiring.

Now that in-person classes have commenced and student activities are in full swing, I wanted to provide you guidance regarding another essential aspect of an in-person campus experience: events.

First, though, I want to revisit a point made earlier this month regarding faculty wearing masks while teaching. Several of you have raised concerns regarding the pedagogical impact of being masked while lecturing or leading a class—including students’ potential challenges hearing what the faculty member says.

Fully vaccinated faculty and staff (i.e., those two weeks removed from receiving the final dose of their COVID-19 vaccine) may remove masks to teach if wearing them negatively affects instruction.

Faculty members who wish to remove their masks while teaching:

  • must be a minimum of 6 feet away from students—all of whom should be wearing masks;
  • should minimize the amount of time they are not wearing masks, because infection risks grow with increased duration of exposure; and
  • recognize that classrooms with microphones and speakers are settings where they can keep their masks on and use the available equipment to enhance their ability to be heard and understood.

Faculty member Lauren Calandruccio, who specializes in auditory perception, provides additional guidance for those teaching while masked in today’s Daily.

As for gatherings other than classes such as invited lectures, symposia, and the similar events, the following protocols apply:

  1. Do not attend events if you have COVID-19 symptoms—even if you’re fully vaccinated.
    In fact, you should not go anywhere on campus, and instead contact your primary health care provider for guidance.

  2. If indoors, make sure to wear your mask.
    No amount of protection is perfect, but vaccination and masking are among the most effective dual combinations against COVID-19.

  3. If indoors, also consider reducing the number of invitations—and/or selecting larger venues.
    By now most of you have heard the term “Swiss Cheese Model” in terms of pandemic defense. In simplest terms, the more layers of protection you have, the less likely you are to become infected.

  4. Be smart about refreshments.
    The best option is to provide wrapped or boxed items that people can eat later, but if food and/or drink need to be part of the event, please avoid buffets or similar arrangements where people are close together and sharing large utensils like serving spoons. In addition, put your mask back on once you’ve finished eating.
  5. Finally, any event involving 50 or more participants and including people not affiliated with the university requires submission of a plan be submitted for review and approval by the university’s COVID-19 operations group.

    As a first step, share your proposal with your department chair or other supervisor. This individual will submit the final document to the operations group. Requests for events involving people not affiliated with the university must be submitted to the group at least two weeks before the date of the event.

    In addition, all communications regarding the event (including invitations) should include this paragraph:

    Increasing COVID-19 cases within Northeast Ohio have prompted Case Western Reserve to resume its requirement that masks be worn indoors. In addition, only those who are fully vaccinated (two weeks past their final dose) should attend any campus event. Leaders continue to monitor pandemic developments and may need to adjust health protocols further as circumstances warrant. In-person is subject to change based on COVID-19 guidelines.

Like you, I wish so many measures were no longer necessary. But so long as Delta continues to contribute to increasing infections, we must take extra precautions to protect one another—and continue to be able to enjoy all of the benefits of a fully in-person semester.

Ben Vinson III
Provost and Executive Vice President