SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Citing a rapid decline in COVID-19 cases across the area, Sacramento State President Robert S. Neslen announced Thursday that the campus mask mandate will end after March 18.

In mid-February, despite being spotted maskless at an indoor banquet and California lifting its statewide indoor mask mandate and, Nelsen told students and staff that the university’s indoor mask mandate would remain in place until further notice.

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Thursday’s change comes as Nelsen said Sacramento County’s positive case rate has hit its lowest since June 2021 and that the campus rate showed similar trends. Still, the president said he expects the decision to now lift the mandate to be welcomed with mixed emotions.

“Some students, faculty, and staff will look forward to coming to campus and being able to greet their colleagues without masks,” Nelsen said in a letter to students and staff. “Others will be concerned about exposure and possibly taking the disease to their homes where there may be small children or persons who are immunocompromised. This transition will not be easy.”

Nelsen said the university’s vaccination rate remains above 96% and that the number of students and university employees who have received a booster shot continues to rise. However, COVID-19 testing will continue weekly for students and staff who are not yet fully vaccinated.

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Though they will no longer be required, masks will also be encouraged for any students and staff who feel more comfortable wearing them.

“COVID-19 has not disappeared. Many will feel the need to continue to wear face coverings, especially in classrooms, to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Nelsen said in his letter. “Others simply have become comfortable wearing face coverings. Everyone should feel free to wear face coverings, and no one should be shamed for wearing them.

Any students and staff who choose to still wear face coverings will be able to access free N95 masks across the campus at places like the Library and University Union.

Though the campus indoor mask mandate is lifting, Nelsen said, in accordance with health care official guidelines, masks will remain required in health care facilities, including the Well, and public transportation like the Hornet Shuttle.

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The university recently announced that COVID-19 booster shots were deemed mandatory for students and staff. Those who receive their booster should have reported it to the university by Feb. 28 or six months after receiving the final dose of their initial vaccination, whichever is later.