April 23, 2021 – COVID-19 and Plans for the Fall
Dear Members of the Whitman Community,
It’s hard to believe that we are within sight of the end of the spring semester. As many of you are thinking about finals, theses, and traveling home for the summer, it’s likely that you are also wondering what things might look like on campus this summer and in the fall. Information about the summer will come shortly, but I wanted to share the following information now about the fall.
Our goal is to be back in person in the fall with a Whitman experience that is as close to “normal” as possible. That means in-person classes, normal living and dining, lots of campus activities, athletics competition, music events, plays, field trips, and no quarantine requirement after travel. We plan to be back to pre-COVID classroom capacity and regular distancing if state and local guidance permits. We plan to ease mask requirements as we are able to based on recommendations from the state of Washington. The academic calendar is also set with a week-long Thanksgiving Break and a two-week Spring Break as has been our practice prior to COVID.
All this is under the assumption that nearly all of us will be fully vaccinated by the fall. As such, proof of COVID vaccination will be required for all students in order for them to return in the fall. Students who choose not to get vaccinated, with a very narrow exception for medical and religious reasons, will not be allowed to return to school in the fall and will need to take a leave of absence.
It is also our expectation that all employees receive the COVID vaccine.
To ensure the safety of our entire community, any community member that is not vaccinated will have to do the following:
- Undergo regular COVID-19 testing at specifically assigned times.
- Forgo college-sponsored travel and quarantine for 10 days when returning from personal travel (in line with CDC recommendations for those who have not been vaccinated).
- Continue to wear masks indoors, even when masking requirements for vaccinated individuals are eased.
As we move forward with plans for the fall it is imperative that we know how many of our community members have been vaccinated. Please remember to fill out the COVID-19 Vaccination Reporting Form as soon as possible after you receive all necessary vaccine doses (two doses for Astra-Zeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, Sinopharm, Sinovac and Sputnik V, one dose for Johnson & Johnson). So far nearly 30 percent of the Whitman community are vaccinated and that is a great start!
We have pivoted again and again over the past year in response to the pandemic and there are still a lot of unknowns. Things are always changing as we are all well aware. There are still questions about how COVID variants will evolve in the coming months and if we’ll need booster shots so our vaccines continue to be effective. We are working with staff from the governor’s office as they update fall guidelines for institutions of higher education, but we do not know what those will be yet. For these reasons, we are remaining flexible and will continue to plan for several scenarios so that we are able to adjust and respond if conditions change.
For more than a year now we have been making tough decisions to keep each other and the broader Walla Walla community safe. Each of us has made countless sacrifices and has followed inconvenient and sometimes uncomfortable protocols to get us where we are today. And the relatively low COVID numbers we’ve seen on campus this semester is a testament to the hard work of the entire community. I can’t thank you enough. And I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to a campus that looks much more like what we were used to pre-pandemic. But we still have some work to do. Keep up the social distancing, mask-wearing and keep those groups small. Most importantly, make plans to get vaccinated if you haven’t already and fill out the COVID-19 vaccination reporting form as soon as you do so.