What will change on campus following the expiration of Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID State of Emergency?
Dear Western Community,
When Gov. Jay Inslee lifted the COVID state of emergency on Oct. 31 that had been in effect since February 2020, including all the executive orders within it, he signaled another step in the state’s drawdown from the pandemic that is being mirrored here on Western’s campus and its remote facilities as well.
And while the university will continue to move away from the centralized COVID response it put in place in those dark days almost two years ago, Western will continue to monitor the public health situation in our area and act accordingly to reinstitute any protective measures once again if needed.
University executive leadership has thoughtfully considered the impacts created by the lifting of the governor’s declaration. With the health of our community as a top priority, the university will move forward with very few changes to its policies and COVID practices during the 2022-23 academic year, and particularly as the campus heads into winter break.
Proof of Vaccination Required
The university will continue to require proof of an initial COVID vaccination series for all students, employees, contractors, subcontractors, and volunteers through the end of the 2022-23 academic year in line with current Memoranda of Understanding (MOU’s). Western will also continue to host booster/vax clinics on campus as a way of keeping the campus community as highly vaccinated as possible.
The university has entered into Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with the UFWW, WFSE, and PSE collective bargaining groups, and the tenets of these MOUs will be honored as bargained until their expiration.
The Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA) became state law in May 2021. One of its requirements is that the university must make notification of a potential exposure to an infectious or contagious disease to all employees, union representatives and employers of subcontracted employees in the workplace. This act remains in effect as long as the current presidential public health emergency declaration is in effect.
At this time, HELSA is set to expire January 11, 2023, but since first declared in January 2020, it has been renewed every 90 days. As long as HELSA remains in effect, so will the current system of notifications, which includes individual notification to employees of potential exposure whenever possible, daily confirmed cases by building, and weekly reported caseloads. This data is available at https://www.wwu.edu/coronavirus#dashboard.
Currently, masks are optional but strongly recommended on Western’s campus in areas of high concentrations of individuals. Masks are only required in the Student Health Center, Counseling and Wellness Center, Disability Access Center, and Speech and Hearing Clinic, due to the CDC’s requirements for medical facilities. There will be no changes to this approach unless the health situation worsens, but as mentioned above, university leadership will continue to monitor the key public health data points and reserves the right to reintroduce any safety measures they deem necessary.
Isolation and Quarantine (ISOQ) Spaces in University Residences
Positive cases in Whatcom County have plateaued, although these numbers are likely to rise as colder seasonal weather arrives and people spend more time indoors and as potential new variants of the coronavirus impact our community. Students who need to move to isolation (high-risk students) or who have a strong desire to quarantine away from roommates will be offered isolation/ quarantine housing in Birnam Wood on a case-by-case basis and as space allows.
The Student Health Center, ISOQ transport, and University Residences will continue to partner on identifying these patients and getting them transported to ISOQ housing.
University policy revisions
Western will put into place by Dec. 1 a revision to the University’s Communicable Disease Policy (POL-U1000.12) to include language that states that isolation/quarantine for each communicable disease is based upon medical/public health recommendations for that disease. This will allow more flexibility in the policy should the health situation worsen.
We know that the lifting of the state of emergency – and the drawdown of some procedures and requirements as a result – may cause concern to some of you. If you have questions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darin Rasmussen, Assistant Vice President, Risk, Ethics, Safety, and Resilience
COVID Coordination Fall Planning Team Coordinator