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American, GW universities among latest campuses to reinstate masks

At least four Washington-area campuses have returned to former coronavirus policies as cases rise

American University will reinstate its indoor mask policy Tuesday. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)
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American and George Washington universities will reinstate their indoor mask mandates Tuesday following a rise in coronavirus cases on campuses throughout the region.

The changes on both campuses follow short-lived mask-optional policies that offered students and professors a taste of pre-pandemic normalcy. At GWU — where officials just one week ago moved to make masks “strongly recommended” — the masking requirement will extend through the end of the semester, final exams and graduation. At least 190 people have tested positive for the virus since the campus eliminated its mandate on April 4.

AU saw a jump in cases after students returned from spring break on March 14, reporting 192 cases between then and April 3, the most recent available data shows. Officials had moved to make masks optional in classrooms, dining facilities, dorms and most other indoor spaces on March 21 before Monday’s announcement reinstating face coverings.

Georgetown, Johns Hopkins temporarily restore some covid measures

Leaders at the university said they will revisit the mask protocol by May 9. Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for May 7 and 8.

“We believe increased levels of transmission in the region will continue in the coming weeks. It is also likely that there are additional underreported cases from more at-home testing,” AU officials said in an email to the campus. They pointed to the school’s positivity rate — 2.23 percent as of April 5 — which is “steadily increasing.”

AU has reported one coronavirus-related hospitalization during the spring semester, but leaders on both campuses said high vaccination and booster rates have largely protected their communities from severe infections. GWU and AU have reported vaccination rates of at least 98 percent.

The changes at AU and GW follow similar announcements elsewhere in the region. Georgetown University last week told students that it would bring back its indoor mask mandate for the main and medical center campuses. Johns Hopkins University, which has continued to enforce the use of face coverings in classrooms, reinstated mask policies in dining facilities and residence hall common areas. Undergraduate students on the Baltimore campus will also be required to undergo twice-weekly testing until at least April 22, officials said Thursday.

Philadelphia brings back mask indoor mandate as covid cases rise

Across the D.C. region, coronavirus cases have been ticking up, but officials said last week that they were not yet seeing spikes in severe illness.