Dear Faculty and Staff,
The health, safety and well-being of our Panther community is my top priority as we head into the fall semester amid a rise in the Delta variant. Our nimbleness and significant masking, testing and vaccination measures have made UW-Milwaukee campuses among the safest places you can be. We need to continue our actions to keep our campuses’ positivity rates low and our engagement high. We are having an impact beyond our walls too. This is entirely in alignment with the Milwaukee Business Journal announcement today that UWM is a Health Care Community Champion award winner.
Although a legislative committee voted to block the UW System from enacting COVID-19 restrictions for students and visitors, UW System has affirmed our authority to regulate the health, safety, and welfare of our institutions, and our mask and testing mandates remain in place. This is not about politics. It is about doing all we can to ensure a high-quality, in-person resumption of classes and achieving close to normal life and activities on our campuses. Much is at stake. Student learning, social development, a sense of community, engagement on and off campus, research activities and more are all better and dependent on personal interactions. We know this is what students want and need—and these factors have been missing for the past year.
During the town hall for faculty and staff on Aug. 4, campus leaders and I stressed the critical importance of protecting our campus communities, and public health measures are the key to ending this pandemic and returning to normalcy.
Because of increased case counts within the three counties where we have campuses, CDC guidance, and the contagiousness of the Delta variant, we announced mandatory face coverings indoors for students, employees and visitors, as well as mandatory weekly testing for all unvaccinated students and employees who are not 100% online or remote. In addition, we have rolled out extensive vaccination education and incentive programs beyond the UW System 70 for 70 campaign. We were the first UW System campus to implement these masking and testing measures. UW-Madison has now announced a mask mandate, and other UW campuses are discussing their next steps. We are hopeful that we can lift these restrictions as conditions change for the better.
This is clear action to safeguard public health. It is about Panthers protecting Panthers and preventing needless outbreaks. Staying nimble is the most important thing we can do to keep our momentum going—to keep the doors open today and in the long run.
Mark A. Mone, PhD