Washington State University leaders told viewers of Thursday’s town hall that, like the previous fall semester, classes and campus activities would be in-person during the Spring 2022 semester.
The university is welcoming Cougs back thanks to strong vaccination rates and persistent health and safety protocols, though severe winter weather and extended mountain pass closures prompted the university on Friday to cancel Monday and Tuesday classes on the Pullman campus. Upwards of 90% of all students, faculty and staff across the WSU system are vaccinated, which was instrumental in warding off outbreaks on campuses during the fall.
In order for that success to be replicated during the spring semester, WSU President Kirk Schulz encouraged all members of the university community to get a COVID-19 booster.
“I’m really proud of the incredibly high vaccination rates across all of our campuses, but we want to remind everybody, to please, if you have not already done so, to get your booster,” Schulz said. “It’s really the only way to protect ourselves and our fellow Cougs.”
WSU Pullman students can schedule a vaccine or booster appointment via Cougar Health Services’ website. Faculty, staff, and students on other campuses can find information on vaccine and booster clinics near them by using Washington’s Vaccine Locator tool. Additional information on boosters and eligibility can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
More than 2,000 people tuned in to Thursday’s COVID-19 town hall, the 17th such event university leadership has hosted since the pandemic began. The entire town hall is available on the Experience WSU website.
In response to new guidance from the CDC, WSU has modified its policies for isolation and quarantining. Dr. Sunday Henry, director of medical services for Cougar Health Services, outlined those changes during the meeting:
- Those who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, must stay home for five days after testing positive for COVID-19
- After five days, those with no symptoms can end their quarantining, though must continue to wear a mask around others for another five days
- Those who tested positive and still have a fever after five days should stay home until the fever resolves
- Anyone who entered a WSU facility within the state of Washington prior to testing positive should call Environmental Health and Safety at 509-335-9564 or 509-335-5251. For employees outside of Washington state, please call HRS Disability Services at 509-335-4521.
- The procedure for anyone exposed to someone with COVID-19 varies based on vaccination status
- Those who are boosted or recently vaccinated and are asymptomatic can return to a WSU location as long as they wear masks around others for 10 days and test five days after exposure, if possible. If symptoms arise, Cougs should get a test and stay home until they receive results
- Those who are not recently vaccinated or are completely unvaccinated should stay home for five days – testing on day five if possible – and continue to wear a mask for another five days. If symptoms arise, individuals should get a test and stay at home until they receive results.
The staff of Environmental Health and Safety is available to provide additional guidance by phone at 509-335-9564 or 509-335-5251.
Henry and other WSU leaders emphasized repeatedly during the town hall that students, faculty and staff who feel unwell should stay home to protect the health of others. Faculty have been asked to be flexible with students who miss class due to illness, Provost and Executive Vice President and Chancellor of the WSU Pullman campus Elizabeth Chilton emphasized.
“We have been asking our faculty and staff to be understanding of students all along through this pandemic,” Chilton said, going on to thank faculty and staff for their flexibility as the university navigates the challenges of the pandemic.
It’s also vital that Cougs wear effective face masks while in the presence of others in the weeks and months ahead. WSU is working to provide masks at high-traffic areas across its campuses. Mask guidance is also available from the CDC.
The option for faculty to have modified duties due to COVID-19-related issues is being reinstated this semester, Laura Hill, senior vice provost, said during the meeting. More information on the process can be found on Human Resource Services’ website.
With wintry weather impacting much of the state, leaders asked those returning to campuses ahead of the start of the spring semester to be careful in their travels and to monitor road conditions.
Cancelling classes on the Pullman campus Monday and Tuesday allows students ample time to return to Pullman following a week of severe winter weather in the state. WSU Pullman facilities and operations will be open normal business hours on Jan. 10 and 11, weather permitting.
Classes will take place as scheduled the week of Jan. 10 on all other campuses, weather permitting.
WSU Spokane and WSU Tri-Cities closed Thursday morning, while WSU Pullman ceased normal operations at 2 p.m. WSU Pullman also delayed the return of normal operations until 10 a.m. Friday to allow for the clearing of campus roads and parking lots.
For those traveling to Pullman who must traverse Snoqualmie Pass, the Washington State Department of Travel is providing up-to-date condition information online.