Dear Whitman community,

With just a few days left in our initial quarantine period, we see the evidence of how seriously our Whitman faculty, staff and students have taken this pandemic. As demonstrated in our COVID-19 Dashboard, cases of COVID-19 in our community are low. While the Whitman-specific COVID-19 data is mostly at the low level, cases in the Walla Walla Valley remain in the high to critical range. Consequently, the cabinet and elected faculty leadership in discussion with our consulting epidemiologist have decided to lower our Threshold Action Level to Level 2 (Medium) effective Monday, Feb. 1. 

Here’s what that means regarding how we learn, live and work together:

  • In-person and hybrid classes will begin meeting on Monday, Feb. 1.
    • Academic buildings may be accessed through the card swipe entrance from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Students should wait until five minutes before their class is scheduled to enter the building in order to prevent overcrowding in hallways.
    • Be prepared to show your green Everbridge badge demonstrating completion of the Daily Wellness Check upon entering the building and at the beginning of each class.
    • Review the Spring 2021 Guidelines for Academic Buildings for further information.
  • We will have limited sit-down dining in Cleveland Commons and Jewett Cafe for students. Please observe marked guidelines about the number of people per table and queueing instructions. If cases remain low and we are able to accommodate student dining needs while maintaining social distancing, we hope to open the dining services to faculty and staff in a few weeks.
  • Athletic facilities will be used for SSRA classes in addition to varsity athletics. If COVID-19 cases remain low on campus, we are preparing to open the athletic facilities to recreational student exercise with reduced capacity in a few weeks. Rules of access for student recreational use of athletic facilities will be sent at the time of opening. 
  • Penrose Library will open Feb. 1. You must make an appointment to use study space or access the archives. More details and scheduling links are available on the Access to Penrose Resources and Services webpage.
  • Reid Campus Center will open for student use from 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Monday–Friday and 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 
  • Within the residence halls: 
    • Gatherings in common spaces are limited to five people, all of whom must live in that residence hall, wear masks and keep six feet apart.
    • In your personal room, you are allowed one visitor from within your residence hall and you both must wear masks and keep six feet apart.
    • If cases of COVID-19 remain low on campus, we hope to allow inter-residence hall visits to begin in a few weeks.
  • Off-campus students: state Phase 1 guidelines in effect for Walla Walla County continue to forbid indoor gatherings with people from outside your household. You should not have visitors inside your residence.
  • Student clubs and organizations may begin to meet in person for approved activities in groups of five or less. Masks must be worn and students must keep six feet apart. Contact the Student Activities Office for further guidance.
  • Students may be out in Walla Walla for work, recreation and other activities.
    • Off-campus jobs, internships and volunteer activities must be approved by the Dean of Students Office following review of the off-campus organization’s COVID-19 health and safety plan.
    • Follow all local and state guidelines, including:
      • Wearing a mask in all public indoor and outdoor spaces.
      • Outdoor social gatherings and activities are limited to ten people.

It is important to remember that the Threshold Action Level is an evaluative rubric intended to provide guidance for decision making and not to determine a rigid plan of action. Therefore, we are loosening our safety protocols gradually so we can carefully monitor how our situation evolves with an increased level of in-person interactions.

As we move into this next phase of community life, remember to continue masking up, spreading out and keeping your gatherings small whether you are on or off campus. Make sure that if you are assigned to be part of our weekly COVID-19 surveillance testing pool, you show up for your test; otherwise, your access to campus will be revoked.

If things continue to go well on campus and show signs of improvement in the region, we hope to be able to transition to Threshold Action Level 1 (Low) in the future. 

Peter Harvey
Chair, Coronavirus Task Force