Testing, Exposure, and Masks Information

COVID Testing

Campus Mandatory Testing

Western requires any students or employees with a medical or religious exemption from the COVID vaccine requirement to test  weekly when Whatcom County is in a high COVID level, per the CDC. Testing must be done through on-campus testing by the Student Health Center for students or HR for employees. 

Reminder for Students: Students with symptoms who need COVID Testing on campus should call the Student Health Center to make an appointment.

Voluntary COVID Testing

Any student can make an appointment for voluntary COVID testing, regardless of insurance.

Make an appointment through your MyWesternHealth patient portal.

If you experience difficulty making your appointment, please call the Student Health Center. 

Employees are being encouraged to use home tests over the summer quarter. See below for free at-home tests. If an employee wishes to get a PCR test, please contact your medical insurance, Kaiser Permanente or Regence Blue Shield.

Community Testing Options

To locate a COVID testing facility near you, use the state testing locator.

Other Healthcare Options

  • Contact your primary healthcare provider
  • Call the Washington State Department of Health at 800-525-0127
  • Access free e-visits by Indigo Online Care to anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath).

Tested positive for COVID?

If you tested positive for COVID on a home test or through an off-campus testing facility not associated with Western, notify Western!

Students: log into your MyWesternHealth patient portal and send a message with your result by doing the following:

  • Go to Messages on the left side pane
  • Select "New Message"
  • Select the option "I want to *Report a COVID Positive Result*"
  • Fill in the form

On Campus Residents: If the Student Health Center is closed (evenings, weekends, intersession and Holidays) contact your RD immediately so they can assist with isolation and meal delivery.

Employees: send an email to: HR.COVID.Assistance@wwu.edu to notify HR of your positive result. 

  • Student employees: follow the process for students.

Then follow these instructions for isolation/quarantine.

When a Student Tests Positive

When a student notifies the Student Health Center that they have tested positive for COVID, or receives a positive COVID test through the Student Health Center, the SHC provide the student with information about isolation. If needed, University Residences will assist with getting the student moved to isolation rooms on campus if needed and getting meals delivered to them during this time.   

Additionally, students will receive an online form to complete to notify Western of any on-campus presence. The COVID Support Team will provide notifications to relevant areas if the student indicates that, while they were infectious, they:

  • Attended in-person classes
  • Were involved in intramurals
  • Were involved in athletics
  • Worked on campus
  • Attended events/programs on campus
  • Used campus services
  • Had other on-campus presence

Notifications to impacted areas such as classes, service areas, etc., will not include any personally identifying information about the positive case, such as name or Western ID number.   

Generally, notifications sent from COVID Support will be general notices that individuals in that area were potentially exposed to COVID. This is not the same as being notified that they were a close contact of a positive case, which would be done directly by the person who tested positive or the local health department. However, if a student provides information regarding close contacts on their form, COVID Support will provide those individuals notice of the close contact.

Additionally, what buildings the COVID-positive individual spent time in will be listed on the Positive Cases by Campus Building page.

If individuals have questions about the positive case process and notifications regarding students, they can contact COVIDCoordinationResilience@wwu.edu.

When an Employee Tests Positive

When an employee notifies Human Resources that they have tested positive for COVID, HR will follow the steps outlined on their Test Reporting page.

Human Resources will contact the positive individual to understand the period of transmission and who may have been at risk for exposure. This may include:

  • Your health status and the date of onset of symptoms (or date of test)
  • WWU locations where you were at for at least 15 minutes while infectious
  • Activities conducted while infectious
  • Face coverages and PPE worn
  • WWU close contacts and others who may have been around you

Notifications to impacted areas such as classes, service areas, etc., will not include any personally identifying information about the positive case, such as name or Western ID number.   

Additionally, what buildings the COVID-positive individual spent time in will be listed on the Positive Cases by Campus Building page.

If individuals have questions about the positive case process and notifications regarding employees, they can contact HR.COVID.Assistance@wwu.edu.

Free COVID Home Tests

Your health insurance provider offers 8 free home tests per month. Order them here:

WA State Free COVID Home tests available at: https://sayyescovidhometest.org/

Washington State households can order 5 free at home tests for delivery up to twice a month each month.

Free at-home tests can also be picked up at any Whatcom County Health Dept. vaccine clinic. Find upcoming clinics at: https://www.whatcomcounty.us/3530/COVID-19-Vaccines#popup

Exposure: Close Contact, Quarantine, and Isolation

On January 10, Western emailed students and employees regarding the latest ISOQ guidance. Since the email update to campus went out, an adjustment has been made to allow students who are exposed and boosted to not quarantine, in line with the current CDC, WA DOH, and Whatcom County Health Department guidance. Employees and students now all follow the same guidance. 

Exposure to COVID

If an individual has tested positive for COVID, they need to tell any individuals they were in close contact with that they were exposed. As a reminder, being a close contact is defined as being within six feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes within a 24-hour period.

Local health departments will try to call the individual who tested positive to learn about close contacts, but when cases are surging, they might not be able to get to everybody who has tested positive. During surges, it is even more important for positive individuals to directly notify the people they were in close contact with.

 

If you were a close contact:

The Student Health Center has guidance for what to do after being exposed to COVID.

Regardless of how you answer the following questions, you need to wear a mask anytime you are around other for 10 days from the last day you were exposed. This means following all current mask mandates, as well as wearing a mask even around others in your own home. You also should not go anywhere you might remove your masks, such as a gym or restaurant.

  1. Are you experiencing symptoms?
    • Yes- isolate immediately and get tested for COVID as soon as possible
      • If your test comes back negative, quarantine until your symptoms resolve
    • No- continue to next question
  2. Have you received a booster vaccine or are not yet eligible to get a booster?
    • Yes- you do not need to quarantine. If you develop symptoms, return to the first question.
    • No- quarantine by staying home for five days. If you develop symptoms, return to the first question.

If possible, close contacts should get tested five days after their last exposure. 

More information can be found on the Whatcom County Health Department website, Washington DOH website, and the CDC website.

Academics While in Quarantine/Isolation

If you are a student and will be unable to attend in-person classes due to being in quarantine or isolation, you are responsible for communicating this with your instructors, as you would with any other illness. Faculty have been instructed to provide accommodations during that time, which will differ based on the best practice for each class, in line with how they would typically work with students taking an extended leave. If you are facing difficulty with getting accommodations for your classes, please contact the Office of Student Life.

Faculty looking for help on what accommodations to provide or how to do should reference information from the Provost's Office or contact their chair/dean.

Employment While in Quarantine/Isolation

Employees and their supervisors will work together to determine any remote work options while in quarantine/isolation, or if taking leave would be needed. Employees can learn about different leave options available on the HR website.

Student employees should contact their supervisor regarding potential options for remote work or taking leave.

Quarantine/Isolation On Campus

Information about the quarantine and isolation spaces on campus, such as what to pack, meal delivery, and more, can be found on Housing's COVID website.

Masks

Masks are optional in nearly all settings*, including inside Western buildings on the Bellingham Campus. Please follow any policies at other site locations(Poulsbo, Everett, etc.) which may still require masking or other COVID safety protocols.

*The only exception to this is masks are still required in healthcare settings, such as the Student Health Center, per state and federal requirements.

 

This may change if public health conditions change in the future.

Every individual has the right to continue masking in any setting at Western if they prefer, even when masks are no longer required by the university.

To download masking signage to print for your office or department, please visit the visual aids and posters page. 

Mask Types

It is now recommended to use more protective masks than cloth masks. Whatcom County Health Department recommends the use of KN95s, FF-94, or three-ply surgical masks.

Surgical masks remain appropriate for daily use by students and employees around campus and are available upon entry in several campus buildings. Remember that KN95 masks provided to frontline employees and frontline student employees by Western are in short supply and are for those employees only.

To learn more about masks, such as what types of masks will offer you protection, view the CDC masking website.


Caring for Your Mask

With the highly transmissible omicron variant, many folks have upgraded to higher-quality N95 and KN95 masks for daily use. N95 and KN95 masks are designed for a single use, but members of the general public may choose to reuse them and are encouraged to abide by the following “mask hygiene” tips:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling your mask, regardless of your type of mask
  • Avoid using a single N95 or KN95 mask for more than about a week (approximately 40 hours) total. After about 40 hours of total use, discard it and secure a new mask
  • After using your N95 or KN95 mask for the day, let it sit and dry out in either a paper bag or in the open for a few days before re-use - use another mask in the meantime
  • Avoid using any amount of heat to “disinfect” the N95 or KN95 mask, as heating the mask may cause breakdown of the material and for your mask to be less effective during future use