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March 31, 2023: Whitman Campus COVID-19 Update

Dear Members of the Whitman community,

We are writing with some important updates regarding the Whitman campus COVID-19 protocols and policies.

At the end of 2022, Governor Jay Inslee ended Washington’s COVID-19 state of emergency and on May 11, 2023 the federal Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 will also expire. While COVID-19 has not gone away, today the state of the pandemic is much different than it was when the emergency declarations were put in place. Vaccines and boosters have been developed and are widely available; there are new treatments to minimize some of COVID-19 severe symptoms; and we now know much more about how it is transmitted.

In consultation with cabinet, faculty leadership and our consulting epidemiologist, Whitman College will make the following policy changes, effective May 11, 2023:

  1. Whitman students, faculty and staff will be strongly encouraged to remain up to date, as defined by the CDC, on their COVID-19 primary series vaccinations and boosters, however, it will no longer be a requirement of admission or employment.
  2. The college will no longer require asymptomatic testing for athletic travel.

These policy changes, which are subject to adjustment if conditions change, recognize that COVID-19 cases in our community and nationally are occurring at lower rates and that immunity conferred by both prior infection as well as vaccine-induced immunity protects individuals from becoming severely ill.

Epidemiological modeling of the Whitman community indicates that based on current transmission rates, if at least 60–80% of our population receives a booster as recommended by the CDC, that the rate of symptomatic illness on campus should remain relatively low and not impact campus operations. When we surveyed campus at the end of last semester, approximately 92% of the Whitman community attested that they were up to date.

It is also worth noting that the tracking required to ensure compliance for vaccine requirements takes a significant amount of staff resources–time that could be used meeting other health needs of Whitman students.

We recognize that COVID-19 will continue to be present in a congregant living setting and we will continue to maintain several important mitigation measures:

  • Providing student isolation rooms.
  • Providing free symptomatic testing and masks at the Health Center.
  • Allowing faculty and staff to require masks in their classes or office spaces.

Thank you for your continued commitment to the safety of everyone in our campus community.

Peter Harvey, Chair of the Coronavirus Task Force
Sarah R. Bolton, President

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