President Washington announces COVID next steps

Dr. Gregory Washingon, president of George Mason University. Photo by Ron Aira/Creative Services.

Dear Fellow Patriots:

At long last, it can be said: George Mason University is winning the battle against COVID-19. We have not won yet, but we are close. I am writing to share with you steps that we are preparing to take as the omicron variant’s presence continues to fall.

At the approach of the two-year anniversary of COVID-19’s arrival, Mason is seeing light at the end of this very long tunnel. As we have seen throughout the pandemic, Mason continues to maintain some of the lowest rates of transmission of any university in the nation, making it one of the safest places anywhere to weather the pandemic. This did not happen by accident.

We are here because our approach worked, and so did you. Guided by CDC recommendations, we realized early that only by requiring masking, frequent testing (including pretesting of our on-campus students), isolation and quarantine, and full vaccination would we have a shot at keeping COVID-19 in check. In turn, you took those measures seriously and observed them in unity.

Today, nearly 93 percent of the campus community is fully vaccinated, which far exceeds Virginia’s 69 percent and the nation’s 64 percent full vaccination rates. What’s more, our positivity rate from all sources of testing is down to 2.4 percent and dropping.

Given our high vaccination rate, the continued decline of the omicron variant, the Governor’s recent executive orders and directives, and the recent Attorney General’s opinion, we will now strongly encourage vaccination protocols for all Mason students, faculty, and staff, though we no longer require them. We also strongly encourage everyone to upload their vaccination status so we can continue to understand the effect of the virus on campus community.

In addition, I am very pleased to share that we are setting a university goal of Friday, March 4 as the day we can consider lifting university-wide masking requirements. The weekend spring break starts will mark the two-year anniversary since COVID-19 first disrupted our campuses, and so early March will be a fitting time to consider changing course. We would, however, continue to strongly encourage masking indoors and when required for isolation or quarantine, per CDC guidance.

To get there successfully, we will need to keep a consistent positivity rate among our tests of 4 percent or less for the next five weeks. Testing will remain a requirement for students who are at higher risk for transmission, such as those in our residence halls, athletic programs, and the unvaccinated. In order to accomplish our goal, I strongly encourage everyone to continue the four steps that have gotten us this far: keep masking, get vaccinated and boosted, stay home when sick, and keep testing when you receive an email reminder.

I understand the concept of personal freedom. But we must also understand the need for collective responsibility, and just because we can do something does not mean that we should. We have shown that we can manage COVID-19 and keep people safe, and you have stuck with us on this journey.

If we can hang in there for just five more weeks, we can finally make COVID-19 controllable so it stops controlling us. Once we reach this milestone we can consider reducing our masking protocols to encourage people to wear masks as they see prudent. Should unforeseeable conditions arise and bring a return of COVID-19 to pandemic levels at Mason, we will need to reverse course.

Can we power through the next five weeks? Of course we can. As we have proven for two years straight, we know what to do, what it takes to do it, and what the outcomes are when we pull together to get the job done. So, fellow Patriots, let’s finish the job.


Gregory Washington

Posted in Coronavirus Communications, Official University Communications.