Stanford ‘strongly recommends’ classroom masking for January

Jan. 8, 2023, 11:12 p.m.

The University strongly encouraged students to wear masks in classrooms as well as indoor spaces and crowded outdoor settings for the remainder of January in a Friday statement.

The statement from Vaden Executive Director Jim Jacobs follows a rise in flu, COVID-19 and RSV cases across the country. The University previously announced in October that masking was no longer mandatory in classrooms, though individual instructors could still require masks. The same announcement also strongly encouraged students to wear masks in crowded spaces and crowded outdoor settings.

Individual instructors are permitted to require masks in their own classrooms and may contact their departments to order classroom masking supplies, according to the statement.

The guidance on behalf of the Stanford Public Health Steering Committee comes as a precaution after the holiday season and amidst the “tripledemic” of the flu, COVID-19 and RSV. Historically, viruses tend to spread more during winter months due to increased traveling and gathering indoors. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Sunday, the seven-day average of weekly new COVID-19 cases in the US increased 16.2% from last week. While the new, highly-transmissible subvariant XBB 1.5 has not yet begun circulating widely in California, it has rapidly displaced other variants on the East Coast and worldwide. XBB 1.5 is more contagious and vaccine-resistant than any previous variant. 

Although positive COVID-19 results were low among students on campus throughout December 2022, last year’s cases showed a strong post-holiday surge in Jan. after a similarly low number of cases in December 2021.

Flu hospitalizations this season were the highest in ten years, and though the numbers of infections and hospitalizations are currently declining, they still remain high.

Masks are available for faculty, staff, postdocs and students at Arrillaga Family Dining Commons and other testing facilities.

Other recommended precautions before returning to campus include getting the bivalent COVID-19 booster and the flu shot, as well as taking a COVID-19 test. Tests are available for free at several locations on campus. Positive results are required to be self-reported in Health Check

Masks are still required in healthcare facilities, including Vaden Health Center and Stanford Hospitals.

Caroline Chen '26 is a staff writer for the University Desk. Contact news 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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