Ohio State News Alert: Masks to be optional in most university spaces

Starting at 6 p.m. Friday, March 11, masks will be optional in most indoor spaces on The Ohio State University campuses, including residence halls, dining facilities, classrooms, offices and the Ohio Union.

While the university continues to require masks in clinical health care settings (including at the Wexner Medical Center), COVID-19 testing locations, child care centers and on public transportation, Ohio State will be lifting indoor mask requirements in its academic and general-purpose buildings.

For most spaces, the updated masking policy will take effect at 6 p.m. on March 11, with the start of the university’s spring break. Public events, such as those that take place at the Schottenstein Center and the Covelli Center, are mask optional, effective immediately.

Throughout the pandemic, the university has followed guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ohio Department of Health as well as federal, state and local policy. Ohio State’s updated masking policy reflects improving COVID-19 case counts after the Omicron surge, the high vaccination rate of the university community and the lifting of mask requirements in many jurisdictions, including the city of Columbus this week.

In settings where masks are optional, students, faculty, staff and visitors can decide on an individual basis whether or not they will continue to wear a mask – unless they are Wexner Medical Center employees who received an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement. Those employees must wear a mask inside any medical center facility. The university continues to distribute masks at various locations on campus.

More than 93% of university community members are vaccinated, and 25% have reported that they have received a booster shot to enhance their protection against COVID-19. The positivity rate among those in Ohio State’s COVID-19 testing program has steadily improved throughout the semester. As of March 6, the seven-day average positivity rate was 0.6%, down from 8.5% on Jan. 19. 

Ohio State continues to urge all members of the community to take necessary precautions against COVID-19, including receiving all vaccination and booster shots for which they are eligible. Through the first week of April, students, faculty and staff who report their booster shots to the university are eligible for prizes in the Buckeye Booster Drawing.

The university will continue to adjust COVID-19 measures as appropriate based on science as well as guidance from national, state and local agencies.

For now, the university will maintain its COVID-19 surveillance testing program, which includes weekly testing of students in university housing, in social fraternities and sororities, and with approved exemptions to the university’s vaccination requirement. Employees with approved exemptions are also required to test weekly.

Individuals should stay home if they are feeling sick and follow CDC guidelines if they test positive for COVID-19 or are exposed to someone with the virus. These guidelines include wearing a mask for at least 10 days.

Specifics of the university’s mask policy are posted on the Personal Safety Practices page of the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website. Under the updated policy, masks must continue to be worn indoors in the following settings:

  • In clinical settings where patient interactions occur – including at the Wexner Medical Center, the Wilce Student Health Center and other health care clinics. This includes corridors, lobbies and nursing stations of the hospital and ambulatory clinics.
  • At COVID-19 testing centers, including Jesse Owens North.
  • In child care centers, including the Nisonger Center at the Wexner Medical Center.
  • And on transportation, including CABS and shuttle buses.