February 18, 2022: Keep On Masking (For Now...)
Dear Whitman community,
As you’ve probably heard by now, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has announced that the state’s indoor mask mandate will be coming to an end on Monday, March 21. State leaders are optimistic because, although case counts right now are still very high and require our ongoing caution and adherence with masking and other COVID-19 protocols, their data modeling predicts that around March 21 the number of cases requiring hospitalization will drop to a low enough point that hospitals will be able to resume relatively normal functions.
Over the next few weeks, the Cabinet and elected faculty leadership will continue monitoring the COVID-19 situation at Whitman and, in consultation with our epidemiologist, will discuss what masking protocols make sense for us once the state mask mandate is lifted. While Gov. Inslee is focused on COVID-19 hospitalizations, there is no one threshold or data point that will determine when Whitman’s masking requirement may be removed or eased. We will consider many factors, such as positive cases both on campus and in the Walla Walla community, our weekly and total community positivity rate as well as other trends we may be seeing (such as the emergence of new variants or specific situations that are at a higher risk of transmission).
The good news is that both on campus and in the Walla Walla Valley, there are signs that transmission of COVID-19 is slowing. So far this week we have had just three positive cases in our campus community, and we know that this is due to the responsible measures taken by our students, faculty and staff to wear N95 masks, limit their social gatherings and get tested when they have symptoms.
As a reminder, we will be holding an on-campus clinic with the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health from 2 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 23 at Cordiner. Students, staff and faculty needing to receive the booster should sign up online using this link. Being up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most important ways to help keep our campus healthy.
While this virus has shown us over and over that predictions can turn out to be incorrect, I hope that March will see us finding some clarity about when and how to take the next steps from pandemic life toward “normal.” This will only happen if we continue to carefully follow our COVID-19 protocols throughout these next few weeks so that cases in our campus community remain low, and I trust that we will all work together to make that happen for ourselves and our fellow Whitties.
Chair, Coronavirus Task Force