MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota is bringing back its indoor mask requirement as concerns around the delta variant of COVID-19 grow.
University officials said all students, staff, faculty, contractors, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, will need to wear facial coverings while indoors starting Tuesday, Aug. 3. The requirement applies to all of the university's campuses, offices and facilities across the state.
University President Joan Gabel announced the decision Monday in a letter sent systemwide. She pointed to recent CDC guidelines, which recommend indoor masking in any county with substantial or high rates of COVID-19 transmission.
The U of M's masking requirement applies to all of its locations, including those in counties without high or substantial transmission. Masks will not be required outdoors.
Gabel said COVID-19 vaccinations are strongly encouraged.
"This is a long journey but I’m grateful for this community as we take these important next steps together," Gabel's letter read.
Health officials say the delta variant is a mutated version of the coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions. It was first detected in India, but it's been identified around the world.
As of last month, the CDC said the delta variant accounts for an estimated 83% of U.S. COVID-19 cases. Minnesota health officials also estimate that the variant fuels a majority of the state's new cases.
In its announcement last week, the CDC also recommended masks indoors for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools across the country, regardless of vaccination status.
Minnesota health and education officials seconded the CDC's recommendation, but said the decision to require masks was up to individual school districts.