UC Irvine and other schools reinstate indoor mask mandates amid rising COVID-19 wave

Crowds of students fill campus walkways between classes at UC Irvine in Feb. 2020
Crowds of students fill campus walkways between classes at UC Irvine in February 2020.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The University of California Irvine on Monday will require all students and staff to wear masks while inside campus buildings, following the lead of other colleges that have chosen to strengthen safety measures in recent weeks as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

UCI’s universal masking policy will apply to everyone on campus regardless of vaccination status , according to a statement from the university. The decision was announced after Orange County on Friday moved into the “high” level of community transmission set by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines .

Other University of California campuses including UC Riverside temporarily restored indoor mask policies earlier in the summer that have since expired. UCLA temporarily reinstated its indoor mask policy in late June and later extended the requirement until further notice. UCLA has also reinstated daily symptom monitoring for students and staff. Weekly COVID-19 testing is strongly recommended.


San Diego Unified has also elected to bring back an indoor mask mandate for students and staff starting Monday. In May, the district set multiple criteria that, if met, would trigger a return to a mask mandate. One criterion was San Diego County entering a “high” level of COVID-19 activity — a threshold surpassed on Thursday.

The University of Southern California’s mask policy defers to state and local law, meaning its students and staff will probably not be required to wear masks indoors until Los Angeles County requires it. Most college campuses in the Southland lifted their indoor mask mandates in the spring when coronavirus cases were relatively low.

Continued increases in coronavirus cases fueled by the ultra-contagious BA.5 subvariant as well as a rise in hospitalizations have pushed L.A. County closer to reinstating a universal indoor mask mandate. The reinstatement measure, which officials have long warned was on the table, could go into effect as soon as late July.

Nearly 9 in 10 Californians now live in counties with a high level of COVID-19 community transmission, which the CDC recommends should trigger universal masking in indoor public spaces.

The San Diego Union-Tribune contributed to this report.