Dear Whitman community,

We continue to be encouraged by the degree to which all members of the Whitman campus community are following COVID-19 safety measures. Thank you for the consideration you show for your health and the health of our community members by persisting in following masking, testing and social distancing practices! Another week has passed with no new COVID-19 cases confirmed in our staff, students and faculty and continuing low cases in Walla Walla County; therefore, the Cabinet and  elected faculty leadership, in consultation with our epidemiologist, have decided to remain at Threshold Action Level 1: Low and maintaining all our current campus activities.

One change to our campus COVID-19 policies will go into effect Monday, April 5. While the CDC continues to adapt their recommendations about travel, Whitman continues to operate out of an abundance of caution and with the intent of making sure we finish these last two months of the semester as healthily as possible. We will adapt our required quarantine period following travel or close contact with a COVID-19 patient, reducing it from 14 to 10 days. We ask that all who must travel for essential purposes (medical care or family emergency) follow the CDC guidelines to be tested for COVID-19 1-3 days before your trip and 3-5 days after you return or be fully vaccinated (at least two weeks after the last dose vaccine dose is administered). Students must have essential travel approved by the Dean of Students Office.

There are several situations that the Coronavirus Task Force and campus leadership are monitoring as causes of concern:

  • Current outbreaks at several Washington state universities, which have been linked to residence halls, off-campus gatherings, travel and family visits, as well as outbreaks at other colleges around the country

  • An uptick of new COVID cases on the west side of the state, likely due to highly infectious new variants of the virus which have also been identified in the Tri-Cities

  • Nationally, confirmed COVID-19 cases are rising again after a period of plateau or downturn

  • Europe is experiencing another significant surge, creating concern that a fourth wave of infection has begun

These factors are of enough significance that we want to remind you of our current limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings and ask you to diligently observe these guidelines:

  • Inter-campus visitors are allowed in residence halls (one visitor per room; visitors may not be in public spaces; visitors from off-campus are not allowed).

  • Students may gather outdoors on campus in groups of up to 15 people and indoors in groups of up to five people. 

  • Student clubs and organizations may submit proposals to hold outdoor activities and gatherings of up to 15 people and indoors in groups of up to five people. 

  • Off-campus residents may gather for indoor visits of up to a total of five people from two households and outdoor visits of up to 15 people from two households.

While our limits are more restrictive than the state Phase 3 guidelines currently in place for Walla Walla County, we believe maintaining these standards are in the best interest of our faculty, staff and students. Being a residential college with a highly integrated off-campus student population makes Whitman more vulnerable to outbreaks and therefore necessitates a different approach for our community than is appropriate for the general population. 

This week also brought the exciting announcement that on April 15, anyone age 16 and older in Washington state will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We hope that every faculty, staff and student who is not already fully vaccinated will complete the vaccination process and we are exploring ways to support our students in accessing the vaccine before the end of the semester. We will share more details about this in future communications. 

Peter Harvey
Coronavirus Task Force Chair