WSU adjusts COVID‑19 policies in step toward pandemic recovery

The Cougar Pride statue at the WSU Pullman campus.

Washington State University is loosening its COVID-19 protocols in response to new state guidance, plummeting case numbers, and the widespread availability of vaccines.

Beginning today, students, employees and visitors to a university location no longer have to attest to their current health status. Additionally, the Risk Management Advisory Group no longer requires review of unit and departmental return-to-workplace plans. Committees and task forces dedicated to honing the university’s pandemic response are also concluding their work.

“Members of the WSU community are getting vaccinated and helping to drive down the rates of COVID-19 across our state,” Stacy Pearson, vice president for finance and administration and a leader in the university’s response to the pandemic said. “We feel confident taking these steps toward normalcy, with the acknowledgement that some precautions must still be observed.”

Among the continued precautions is the university’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement for the fall. More than 7.3 million doses of the vaccine have been given out across the state as of June 9.

Exemptions for students and employees will be permissible for medical and non-medical reasons. Employees can now declare themselves vaccinated via Workday, while WSU Pullman students can provide proof of vaccination or request a medical exemption through the Cougar Health Service’s patient portal. The university will detail the non-medical exemption process as well as the medical exemption process for all employees and non-WSU Pullman students in July.

Employees who declare themselves fully vaccinated no longer have to wear masks and socially distance at a WSU location. Those who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks and distance while on a campus or worksite. Providing falsified information regarding vaccination status is grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including termination from employment.

Students, contractors, vendors and visitors must be prepared to show proof of vaccination when entering a WSU building, with those unable or unwilling to do so required to wear a mask and distance or leave university property.

As university faculty and staff prepare to return to work sites, WSU is asking all members of its community to stay home if they are sick.

“The pandemic has really put into focus how damaging a culture of working while sick can be,” Pearson said. “We must commit ourselves to accommodating those who are not feeling well, and individually, we need to understand that if we are not at our best, our work can wait, for the sake of those around us.”

Prior to enacting a return to workplace process, area leaders must designate a COVID coordinator responsible for monitoring Environmental Health and Safety’s website for operational updates. All employees are expected to follow the latest EH&S guidance. The Risk Management Advisory Group can still be consulted by departments, though its review is not required.

Departments looking to host events will still need to submit plans to the Risk Management Services for RMAG review if they include certain criteria:

  • Overnight travel
  • Primarily attendees or participants who are minors, including current WSU students
  • More than 100 attendees are expected
  • Food services will be provided
  • At least 50% of expected attendees are not WSU students, staff or faculty

Employees are no longer required to complete return to workplace training. Rather, they can visit Environmental Health and Safety website for a complete account of current guidance. The process of returning to physical work locations is expected to begin no later than July 12.

WSU expects to review further guidance on classroom distancing from state higher education officials later this summer. The vast majority of classes across the WSU system are scheduled to take place in-person this coming fall.

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