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Thousands of WSU students fully vaccinated ahead of fall semester

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More than 90% of students at three WSU campuses who’ve complied with the university’s COVID-19 vaccine policy are fully vaccinated.

Students are considered compliant if they have provided proof of vaccination or request an exemption for medical or non-medical reasons. The deadline for students to do so is Sept 10.

“Of those who’ve submitted (their information) on the WSU Pullman campus, we’ve been tracking about a 93-94% vaccination rate since we started collecting that information in July,” Joel Schwartzkopf, executive director of Cougar Health Services, said. “As of about an hour ago, just about 11,000 students at WSU Pullman have submitted either an exemption request or their vaccine card.”

The other two campuses with better than 90% vaccination rates among students are WSU Health Sciences Spokane at 97.9% and WSU Tri-Cities at 94.4%, with WSU Vancouver not far behind at 88.2%. While compliance levels at some campuses currently are low, they are expected to increase as the Sept. 10 deadline approaches.

Data on student vaccination rates was provided during Thursday’s Returning to WSU: Fall Semester Town Hall. The event was broadcast on Youtube and is available for anyone who missed it. The event was the latest in a series of town halls that’ve kept the WSU community up-to-date on the university’s response to the pandemic.

WSU leaders went over the latest policy changes from the university as well as detailing Gov. Jay Inslee’s order from earlier in the week. That order requires all school employees in the state, including those who work at colleges and universities, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 as a condition of their employment. Exemptions are being allowed for medical and religious reasons. The order does not allow for personal or philosophical exemptions.

Human Resource Services is currently developing a process to verify vaccinations and exemptions and will be providing more information as it becomes available, Theresa Elliot-Cheslek, associate vice president & chief human resource officer, said. That new process will not allow for personal exemptions, in keeping with the recent state order. HRS will be providing training for supervisors and employees on the new process once it is set.

Washington residents in need of a vaccine can find a place nearby with available appointments by visiting the state’s Vaccine Locator website.

WSU employees are still asked to complete the vaccination declaration process via Workday by Aug. 23.

The other major change outlined by Inslee on Wednesday was the requirement of masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. That order goes into effect Aug. 23. Between then and now, WSU is strongly encouraging everyone inside a university building to wear a mask. Masks are being made available at central locations around the Pullman campus.

Provost, Executive Vice President and Pullman Chancellor Designate Elizabeth Chilton also discussed plans for instruction during the upcoming academic year. Some 80% of classes will be entirely in-person, Chilton said, with a majority of the rest being primarily in-person with some online modules. Students who are unable to attend class while isolating or quarantining should work with their instructors, who’ve in turn been asked to be flexible, to find ways to continue their course work.

For the Pullman campus specifically, Environmental Health and Safety is working with public health experts to create a risk calendar to anticipate and monitor spikes in cases during the semester. Having some 18,000 students return to Pullman is likely to bring an uptick and WSU Pullman staff are prepared to scale up the campuses response as needed.

WSU Athletics is asking sports fans to fill venues to their allowable limits this fall to cheer on Cougar teams.

“It’s no secret what has made has us so special for all of these years,” WSU Director of Athletics Pat Chun said. “It has been the energy that only students and Cougs can bring into a venue.”

At present, there are no restrictions on tailgating during football weekends, something of significance to a large contingent of Cougars, Chun said.

In his closing remarks, WSU President Kirk Schulz gave four key actions members of the university community can take now to maximize the fall semester:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Mask up
  • Wash your hands
  • Enjoy being around people

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