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Stronger Together Update (March 10, 2022)

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Stronger togetherMask Mandate Lifted for West Campus: Follow-Up Q&As 

In last week’s Stronger Together Update, we shared the news that Stony Brook University (SBU) was lifting its mask mandate for most indoor spaces across West Campus as of Wednesday, March 2, in line with the Governor’s new guidelines for public schools K-12. We outlined the continuing mask mandate for East Campus, as well as sending out a separate, more detailed targeted email to all Stony Brook Medicine (SBM) employees. 

Below is a high-level summary of the information, followed by specific questions we’ve received following our emails, which we hope clarifies things even further.

Thank you for your continued flexibility, cooperation and engagement in the midst of changing circumstances and regulations. We will, as always, continue to keep you updated on changes as they occur.
— The Stronger Together Team

High-Level Summary

As of Wednesday, March 2, indoor masking is no longer required at most West Campus indoor locations, with the exceptions of the Student Health & Counseling Center and on-campus surveillance testing sites.

All Stony Brook Medicine employees, regardless of their work location, must continue to wear a well-fitting mask at all times except when alone in a private office or while actively eating or drinking. And all Stony Brook University and Stony Brook Medicine employees, medical staff, practitioners, students, patients and visitors must still wear masks when physically present in any of the following locations: 

  • Stony Brook University Hospital and all common areas, including but not limited to the lobby, cafeteria, Starbucks, Panera Bread and the gift shop
  • Health Sciences and Basic Sciences Towers
  • All patient-care settings
  • All off-site clinic locations, regardless of Hospital Article 28 affiliation
  • All offices, including Flowerfield, Tech Park, Ronkonkoma and Commack
  • All outpatient facilities and physician practices, including the administrative areas within them

Q&As

Q. Are masks still required in East Campus classrooms?

A. Yes. Masks are still required for all students, faculty, medical staff, employees, patients and visitors in all locations within the Health Sciences Tower, including classrooms, offices and all public areas.

Q. Do Stony Brook Medicine employees need to wear a mask when on main, West campus, anywhere in the HSC, or when in HSC common areas (e.g., elevators, escalators, etc.)? 

A. The masking rules are location-based. Both Stony Brook Medicine and Stony Brook University employees will need to mask anywhere on East Campus. And both SBM and SBU employees will not need to wear a mask on West Campus, except at the Student Health & Counseling Center, on-campus surveillance testing sites, and on SBU shuttles and buses.

Q. Will the mask mandate lift apply for large-scale events? Staller Center? Sporting events?

A.  The Staller Center is requiring masks through its March 12 gala date, and will likely lift the mask restrictions at that time … stay tuned.

Candidates, faculty, staff and guests are not required to wear masks at indoor/outdoor May Commencement ceremonies unless CDC and DOH requirements change. Please continue to monitor the commencement website for the latest information.

While most indoor sporting activities are completed for this season, we will plan to follow West Campus guidelines – no masks required for indoor spaces – for future events and staff in press boxes at outdoor events this spring.

Q. I’m planning an in-person meeting. What do I do about masking?

A. As with all indoor public spaces on West Campus, mask wearing will be based on the discretion/comfort of each individual (guest and host). Hosts can communicate that individuals may still choose to wear a mask.

Q. Are masks still required on campus tours?

A. No, they are not.

Q. As a faculty member teaching on West Campus, am I allowed to ask a student to wear a mask in the classroom?

A. No, while masking is still advised in certain medical circumstances, and permitted for anyone who feels more comfortable, nobody can require anybody else on campus to wear a mask.

Q. Are there places on West Campus where I will still need to mask?

A. Yes, masks will still be required at the Student Health & Counseling Center and at on-campus surveillance testing sites. Also on shuttles and buses.

Q. Why are masks still required on SBU shuttles and buses?

A. In order to keep our campus community as safe as possible, we are continuing to require masks in these highly enclosed, close spaces. While the CDC lifted the mask requirements for public school transportation as of February 25, we have taken the more conservative approach (as we did with indoor masking in general) and will wait until federal masking guidance expires on March 18, then revisit masking on public school transportation. We will keep you apprised.

Q. What if I can’t safely be around unmasked individuals for medical reasons (for example I am immuno-compromised)?

A. These requests are handled by the Office of Equity and Access (OEA), which reviews each request and engages in an interactive process, including communicating with both the employee and their supervisor. OEA also has an FAQ page that addresses questions.

Q. Are there still mask requirements for Facilities workers? If so, where?

A. The Facilities & Services workforce, as well as contract workers, will follow University guidance on mask wearing, and therefore continue to wear masks in patient-care settings.

Q. What should I do/steps should I take if I am asked to put on a mask in a classroom, or pressured by peers or others to wear a mask somewhere where it’s no longer required?

A. The guidance allowed the indoor mask mandate to be lifted on March 2 and, while any member of the campus can choose to wear one, the requirement to do so in the locations designated is no longer in effect. Respect and civility regarding an individual’s decision to wear a mask is expected.

Q. If I’m fully vaccinated and COVID cases are going down (to the point where we don’t have to wear masks in most places on West Campus), do I still need to test and why?

A. Surveillance testing continues to be a main component of our COVID response strategy, and one of the reasons cases are so low. It also remains a critical tool for allowing us to monitor the current state of the virus on campus, which will be especially important with the lifting of the mask mandate. Continuing a regular surveillance testing program for all individuals who are physically present on campus (regardless of vaccination status) is also in keeping with the practices of the SUNY school system. And, as a reminder, weekly testing is still required for those who are unvaccinated.

Q. Why was the mask mandate lift communicated and implemented now, and with little advance warning?

A.  As always, we lean on the conservative side of precautionary measures, but also stay aligned with New York State guidelines and best practices. When Governor Hochul announced the lifting of the mask mandate for K-12 public schools, we did the same. We continue to have many safety precautions in place – such as testing and triple vaccination requirements for students – and also encourage anyone who feels safer or more comfortable wearing a mask (or needs to do so for medical reasons) to continue to wear one.

Visit our new Stronger Together website for the latest updates and information.

Contact us at strongertogether@stonybrook.edu with any questions/comments/ideas.

We welcome your feedback!

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  • I believe the mask mandated on east campus needs to be fully and carefully looked at and changed accordingly. There are a HUGE amount of students that don’t wear masks while walking the halls of the HSC and Library. Not to mention there are huge amounts of staff and visitors that don’t wear masks while “on break” and not actively eating. It’s almost impossible for anyone to enforce these rules to every individual that are non compliant. In my opinion you have two options. Either give people the CHOICE to wear the masks in the public hallways and HSC. Or not at all. This in between has people thinking it’s okay when it’s not. This really needs to be addressed. Or updated. Or a mass email be sent so people are aware the masks STILL need to be worn in these areas.

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