A scene on the downtown campus on March 24, 2021.

West Virginia University will lift its mask mandate Tuesday for students and employees, regardless of vaccination status, in all indoor settings excluding patient care areas.

The University said individuals who prefer to continue wearing masks are encouraged to do so.

Masks will continue to be enforced on the PRT and WVU buses through March 18, per federal guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration.

School administrators said the decision came after a recent decrease in COVID-19 cases and increased vaccination rates.

"We feel pretty comfortable with this decision," Provost Maryanne Reed said in a Faculty Senate meeting Monday. "The County School System lifted its mask mandate last week. We've been watching, and we said that we would respond when the situation on the ground changes — and it has changed. And so that's where we're at."

During the meeting, a number of faculty members expressed concern about the administration's lack of notice behind the decision to lift mask requirements.

"Less than 24 hours is not much of a 'heads up for faculty and staff,'" Scott Crichlow, professor of political science, said in the meeting.

David Hauser, faculty secretary and professor from the Eberly College, expressed concern about the swiftness of the University's decision.

"I mean, we're few days from spring break. Why not wait till after spring break or wait, you know, for a week after spring break to sort of let people get it out of their system and and then make a change?" Hauser asked Reed in the meeting.

Reed said the decision to lift masks was made shortly after Monongalia County was moved from high to medium risk based on an assessment made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

The county is no longer recommended to require masks, according to the CDC.

The University said it will begin to update signage indoors on campus regarding the mask mandate.