Northeastern updates mask protocols, changes density restrictions in buildings

Masks+are+no+longer+required+in+indoor+settings+on+Boston%27s+campus+for+vaccinated+individuals.+

Harriet Rovniak

Masks are no longer required in indoor settings on Boston’s campus for vaccinated individuals.

Kelly Chan and Matt Yan

In a university-wide email sent Wednesday, Northeastern updated its protocols on mask-wearing and social distancing for fully vaccinated individuals on campus, effective May 29. This aligns with the city and state’s new guidance on COVID-19 protocols, announced May 17, following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. 

“From the beginning of the pandemic, Northeastern’s decisions have closely followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with local public health authorities,” wrote Chancellor and Senior Vice President for Learning Ken Henderson in the email. “Today, we are revising our protocols for mask-wearing and physical distancing, based on updated recommendations from these same public health and government authorities.”

According to the email, fully vaccinated faculty, staff, students, visitors and vendors on the Boston campus are no longer required to wear masks indoors in all campus buildings. This includes residence halls, classrooms, dining halls, offices, fitness centers and COVID-19 testing centers.

Exceptions to this rule include public transportation, inside University Health and Counseling Services and areas where masks are required by law. Based on CDC guidance, masks will also still be required at large events held in venues like Matthews Arena or Blackman Auditorium. Masks are still required for all those who are not fully vaccinated. 

The university will also lift its density requirement in all buildings May 29 and transition to full occupancy of classrooms July 6, the start of the Summer II term. Other campus locations will update their guidelines in accordance with their respective states. 

Henderson stated that the university will rely on the honor system in enforcing these new protocols and will not require anyone on campus to show proof of vaccination when unmasked. The university will also keep vaccine status confidential, as with other personal medical records and information, and will not require faculty or staff to disclose their vaccine status.

“We also understand that people may have different comfort levels when it comes to removing their masks, and we respect anyone’s decision to continue wearing a mask even if fully vaccinated,” the email read.

This update in protocols comes nearly three weeks after the university’s lifting of the outdoor mask mandate and changes in the COVID-19 testing schedule for those vaccinated. 

In Massachusetts, 46% of the population is fully vaccinated with 359 new cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday. At Northeastern, the current seven-day positivity rate is 0.021% with 0 cases reported May 16.