Moving Toward Mask-Optional Policy

Dear CC Community,

We are encouraged that COVID-19 transmission levels in the county and on campus continue to decline. At an incidence of 97 new cases per 100,000 per week and a positivity rate of 6%, El Paso County is still experiencing substantial transmission levels but is approaching lower risk levels. We see a similar trend among the CC community, with currently 26 new weekly infections, down from 70 one week ago. Now, we are less likely to encounter the virus when we are out and about than we were in J-Block and Block 5, and we are moving toward a generally lower risk environment.  

In addition, nearly 99% of our students and 97% of employees are fully vaccinated, providing an additional layer of protection for our campus community. 

Updated CDC masking guidance announced today recommends indoor masking in areas of “high risk” and mask-optional in areas where risk is “medium and low.” Under the CDC’s new risk metrics, an area is deemed “high” risk if it has concerning levels of COVID hospital admissions and hospital capacity taken up by COVID patients. While guidance has not yet been given for institutions of higher education, the CDC website indicates that this guidance will be updated to align with the new guidance for the general public.

We are not making changes to our masking policy today. However, because El Paso County ​falls in the “medium” risk category, we will move to a mask optional policy next week if infections among the CC community remain well-controlled. Please look for an announcement next week.  

We acknowledge that feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, and relief may accompany this shift in masking. The CC community has come together throughout this pandemic and shown care and compassion. We invite you to navigate this next phase of the pandemic together and continue to support and care for one another as we adapt to changes. The shift to mask-optional will be a welcome change for some and cause for concern for others, for a variety of important reasons. When masking becomes optional, we encourage you to adapt at a pace that feels comfortable to you. 

In the spirit of a gradual approach, when we move to a mask-optional policy:  

  • Continue wearing masks indoors for as long as you feel comfortable.  N95-type masks are the most protective.
  • Faculty, staff, or students may ask others to wear masks in the classroom, office, or meeting space. Please consider one another’s needs while respecting individual choices.
  • Isolation and quarantine protocols remain the same, including the masking guidance.
  • People who are at high risk of severe illness should talk to their healthcare provider about whether to wear a mask, in accordance with CDC guidance.
  • If you feel sick, stay home. Students, do not attend class, and call the Student Health Center at (719) 389-6384 to make an appointment with a provider for COVID testing (location and hours here). No co-pay is needed.
  • As always, show respect and consideration for the health concerns of others.  
Our goal is, and has been, to approach decision making holistically: guided by scientific data, along with the well-being of our community.  

We are also adapting screening testing protocols in response to lower incidence and positivity rates.  Next week, 33% of vaccinated students will participate in  screening testing on Monday. Students with exemptions will continue testing twice weekly in alignment with CDC guidance.   

The trajectory of this data is great news for our community. Because of our unified commitment to risk mitigation protocols, we have been able to achieve our goal of being together in person, on campus. Thank you for all you’ve done and are doing to take care of yourselves and one another.  


Andrea Bruder

Chief Public Health Advisor to the President

Mateo Muñoz
Chair, COVID-19 Policy and Implementation Committee

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