UW-Madison. (Shutterstock)
UW-Madison. (Shutterstock)

The decision comes as Wisconsin’s latest COVID wave rapidly subsides.

University of Wisconsin System officials announced Wednesday they plan to end campus requirements for wearing face masks by spring break, saying widespread COVID-19 vaccinations and declining case numbers will make them no longer necessary.

“Wisconsin has one of the fastest rates of coronavirus decline in the country,” UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson said in a press release. “While we will continue to take prudent prevention measures when warranted, restrictions can be lifted as case counts drop.”

As of Tuesday, state Department of Health Services figures show the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases at 1,828, down sharply from a high of 18,816 on Jan. 19. 

UW System officials said mask requirements could be removed as soon as March 1 and should be ended by spring break later that month. Access to vaccines and testing for the virus will continue to be available on campuses, and UW System schools will keep monitoring COVID-19 and adjust policies if needed, the release states. 

Thompson praised UW System students, faculty, and staff for their willingness to take precautions intended to slow virus transmission. The former Wisconsin governor has urged universities to vaccinate as many students and personnel as possible and to require such mitigation measures as wearing masks and social distancing. 

“Our students have been terrific for the last two years in demonstrating a culture of responsibility,” Thompson said. “We have worked relentlessly to instill in them the need to protect themselves and those around them.”