New indoor masking policy goes into effect March 12

Person standing inside a classroom holding a face mask near their waist.

Washington State University is adopting new face covering guidance in keeping with relaxed requirements being implemented by the state of Washington.

Beginning March 12, masks no longer will be required to be worn in a majority of WSU buildings. That includes classrooms, residence halls, recreation centers and dining halls. Face coverings will still be required on public transit and by those inside medical facilities, including Cougar Health Services and counseling centers, in keeping with Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest guidance and federal requirements.

Effective March 1, WSU also is no longer requiring proof of vaccination for those attending events on its campuses. This after the same restriction was lifted on the state level.

“After examining the available data and consulting with public health experts, we feel confident that we can begin to ease our pandemic-related restrictions,” WSU President Kirk Schulz said. “Vaccination rates among the WSU community are strong, and while we continue to monitor conditions within our communities, I am confident we are on the right track to bring the pandemic under control.”

On Feb. 28, Inslee moved up the date that face coverings will no longer be required inside most establishments, aligning Washington with Oregon and California. The three governors issued a statement on the updated health guidance, which is available online.

The easing of COVID‑19 restrictions comes as hospitalization rates are decreasing and vaccination rates are increasing across the state. Inslee has cited broad access to face masks and COVID‑19 tests as being key to allowing the state to launch a less restrictive phase of its pandemic response. Inslee’s complete message on the next phase of the pandemic is available online.

On March 8, Schulz and Elizabeth Chilton, provost and executive vice president and WSU Pullman chancellor, provided further clarification on the policy changes in a memo to Faculty Senate. The pair noted that instructors are not permitted to require or request that students wear masks in classrooms, with limited exemptions:

  • Courses that prior to the pandemic required face masks as part of the safety protocols for the course
  • Clinical practicum courses where wearing PPE will simulate real-world requirements, such as those observed in healthcare settings

Schulz and Chilton also encouraged individuals who feel more comfortable wearing a mask to continue to do so after the revised policy goes into effect. Faculty, staff, students and visitors should continue to self‑screen for illness prior to visiting a WSU facility and stay home if they are sick.

“While we are making these policy changes, we encourage Cougs who feel more comfortable wearing a mask to continue to do so,” Schulz said. “The health of our community as well as their loved ones remains paramount. Vaccines, face coverings and social distancing remain vital tools to help prevent the spread of serious illness within our communities.”

Cougar Health Services continues to provide vaccines to WSU Pullman students as well as limited testing. Those who are not fully vaccinated and boosted are encouraged to seek them out as soon as possible. The state’s Vaccine Locator tool can help find a vaccine provider nearby simply by entering a ZIP code.

This story has been updated to include information provided in a March 8 memo to Faculty Senate from WSU President Kirk Schulz and Elizabeth Chilton, provost and executive vice president and WSU Pullman chancellor.

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