Notice: UNCW to Introduce Mask-Optional Protocol Effective March 7

Friday, February 25, 2022

Dear Campus Community:
Based on recent guidance from the UNC System and NCDHHS, downward trends in COVID-19 cases on campus and within our community, and readily available vaccines and boosters, the UNCW health and leadership team has decided to ease some of the university’s pandemic protocols. Face coverings will be optional in most indoor locations, including classrooms, and surveillance testing will shift to voluntary and symptomatic services, among other adjustments. Please review the information below for details.

Update: Face Coverings
As outlined in a Feb. 25 UNC System memo from President Peter Hans, North Carolina’s public universities are expected to institute mask-optional protocols by March 7, which is the first day of spring break for UNCW. The UNC System guidance reflects similar guidance from NCDHHS for K-12 public schools. Effective March 7, face coverings will be optional at indoor and outdoor UNCW locations except where required by state or federal law and regulations:

  • Campus healthcare facilities – the Student Health Center, the Counseling Center, all Athletic training facilities, and the General Psychology & Assessment Clinic.
  • Multi-passenger vehicles such as WAVE buses, shuttles, vans and UNCW vehicles. Personal vehicles and open-air vehicles such as golf carts or gators are not included.

The memo from President Hans is available on the UNC System Coronavirus Resource Center site.

In indoor settings, unvaccinated individuals are still encouraged to wear masks to protect themselves and others. The university also continues to encourage good hand hygiene – a protective measure for the flu, colds and COVID-19. Hand sanitizer stations installed as part of our pandemic protocols will remain in place across campus, and masks will remain available at several locations.

Seahawks Respect Seahawks
We are a caring community. We look out for each other, and we work hard to support one another. Please keep these values in mind as we continue adjusting to COVID-19's collective impact on our lives. Some members of our community may continue wearing face coverings. Please respect their decision; they could have many reasons for making that choice, from personal health concerns to the health and safety of small children, elderly or immunocompromised individuals in their lives. If an employee asks another employee, student or guest to wear a mask inside their individual office, please honor the request or make alternate arrangements (such as hold the meeting outdoors, by phone, or virtually). In addition, please carry a mask with you on campus in case you need one.

Surveillance Testing
Unvaccinated individuals’ requirement to participate in weekly surveillance testing will end on March 7. After that, the university will continue to provide symptomatic and voluntary testing services for individuals who still would like to be tested. All testing will occur in Warwick Center Monday through Thursday from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. Testing during spring break will be held in DePaolo Hall (follow the signs). Contact for information. Note: UNCW closed the Veterans Hall testing location Feb. 25.

Testing is also available at several area locations. Please see New Hanover County’s website for additional information.

Vaccines and Boosters
Unvaccinated Seahawks, please remember – free vaccines and boosters are available on campus through the Student Health Center and from numerous other providers nationwide. I urge you to act this semester to protect your health and the health of our community. Upcoming vaccine and booster clinics are scheduled 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. on March 4, March 14 and March 25 in the Student Health Center.

Since last spring, the Student Health Center has collected data to determine the percentage of our campus community that received vaccines. We want to add booster information to this data set to continue accurately assessing our campus community’s protective factors. Please submit your vaccination and/or booster status to if you have not already done so. Student Health staff will be the only ones with access to individual information.

Update: Campus Quarantine and Isolation Protocols
Effective March 7, the university plans to close its quarantine and isolation residence hall. On-campus residents will be encouraged to quarantine and isolate in their daily living spaces or return home. Students who have tested positive for COVID or who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID should contact the Student Health Center for guidance about quarantine and isolation. Contact:

Symptomatic Guidance
Feeling unwell? Please do not attend in-person classes, participate in on-campus events, or work onsite until you receive medical guidance. Students exhibiting COVID-like symptoms or who have been in close contact with individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 should call the Student Health Center at 910.962.3280 to make an appointment or contact their medical providers for assistance. Students who test positive at off-campus facilities should notify the university via

Employees exhibiting COVID-like symptoms or those who have been in close contact with individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 should contact their health care provider, notify their supervisor and then notify the Student Health Center at

As a reminder, the UNC System Office and the Office of State Human Resources developed special COVID work/leave provisions, effective through the end of the state of emergency (which is in effect at present) unless revised or rescinded. Employees should review specific details here.

Update: Daily Health Assessment
The university plans to suspend distribution of the Daily Health Assessment email on March 7. Related information, along with other COVID-19 guidance, will remain available on the Best for the Nest site.

Continue Preparing for Temporary Teleworking Flexibility Adjustments as of March 31
As previously shared, supervisors have the option to temporarily extend the teleworking flexibility used by some employees until March 31. Divisional leadership may provide additional guidance for the units in their areas.

Reminder: Temporary Modality Shifts
The guidance related to course modality modifications (PDF) distributed by the Office of the Provost remains in place through March 31. Faculty should continue to consult with their department chair/school director on the appropriate process to use for modality modification requests.

Monitor Campus Inboxes, Communication Channels  
Thank you, Seahawks, for facing the challenges of the past two years with grit and grace. As we have been reminded throughout the pandemic – things change, sometimes quickly. Rest assured that UNCW will continue to monitor COVID-19 conditions and consider several factors when making additional decisions to adjust our pandemic protocols, including CDC, NCDHHS, and UNC System policies; local public health guidance; the level of transmission in North Carolina; and the overall vaccination rate in our state. Please keep an eye on your campus inboxes, the UNCW homepage and the Best for the Nest site for updates from the university.

Sincerely yours,

Jose V. Sartarelli