UC Berkeley changed its mask policy by removing the requirement that masks must be worn for those who have not received a flu vaccination.
The requirement previously stated that masks are required during flu season for those not vaccinated for the flu. The updated policy states that masks are “strongly recommended” but not required indoors, regardless of flu vaccination status and are optional for everyone outdoors.
“The main reason there is a change to not have a masking requirement for the upcoming flu season is to align with the current City of Berkeley Public Health Department masking guidance which has no masking requirement at this time for COVID or flu,” said University Health Services spokesperson Tami Cate in an email.
The current mandate also states that masks are strongly recommended but not required indoors regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
The decision was also prompted by a review of the University of California Office of the President, or UCOP, policy which states that masks are strongly recommended but not required in certain UCOP facilities across California, Cate added.
During the last flu season, Cate noted campus policy required those unvaccinated with the flu to wear a mask during flu season. However, Cate added, there had also been a campuswide mask mandate for those who were unvaccinated for COVID-19.
“Campus communications and website are being updated now,” Cate said in the email. “A campus-wide communication around flu vaccines and requirements will come out in mid-September with additional details.”
UHS will be providing flu vaccinations for those who want them at the Tang center on a drop-in basis between early October through December, Cate said in a previous statement. The vaccinations will be free for students with the Student Health Insurance Plan and $40 for students without, she added.
Lee Riley, professor of infectious diseases at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, had previously stated in response to the original policy that the mask mandate would have reduced the risk of flu outbreaks on campus, which the Bay Area is likely to see since the uptick in both flu and COVID-19 cases.
According to Riley, a combination of measures used to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks, such as social distancing, masking and receiving a vaccination would also blunt flu transmission rates. He also noted that it is more likely members of the community would have received the COVID-19 vaccine than the flu vaccine.
Cate added that campuswide communication would be sent if there were any other changes to guidelines or requirements.