Dear Whitman community,

I hope your week is off to a good start as the post-Commencement calm settles over campus. With many students away, Whitman’s population has dropped dramatically for the summer, and the Cabinet, elected faculty leadership and our epidemiologist have determined that we can make some changes to our COVID-19 protocols.

First, however, a reminder that COVID-19 remains active both on and off campus: we had 29 positive cases at Whitman last week and in Walla Walla County, cases have been rising over the past several weeks, with spread predominantly seen within households. It remains necessary for all of us to diligently assess the risk of the various situations we put ourselves in to determine what precautions we should take.

On campus, we are making several adjustments for the summer, all of which are effective immediately:

Masking

Indoor public spaces will become mask-optional for everyone. In research labs/classrooms, faculty will have the choice to continue requiring masks or making them optional.

Each person should consider their own risk factors to decide if masking remains part of their individual COVID-19 protective practices. For members of our community who are themselves vulnerable or live with people vulnerable to severe illness, proper masking is an essential way to minimize the risk of transmission. 

We encourage anyone who wants or needs to maintain a high level of protection to continue masking with N95 or equivalent masks. It is our hope that by transitioning to mask-optional everyone will feel comfortable making their individual choice while keeping the well-being of our community in mind — and trusting that others are doing the same. Please be in communication with your colleagues about their wishes around masking, and if you would like a sign asking people to mask while in your office space, please email Heidi Pitts (pittsh@whitman.edu) to place this request.

On-Campus COVID-19 Testing

Testing remains a very important tool in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and we strongly encourage anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested. We will continue to offer rapid antigen test kits for symptomatic and exposure testing for faculty, staff and students this summer. Test kits can be picked up from the Human Resources office in Memorial Building; HR’s summer hours are Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1–4:30 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m.–12 p.m. and we do recommend that you call ahead in order to ensure that HR staff will be available when you arrive.

Note: Welty Student Health Center is closed for the summer. Additionally, Campus Security is not delivering home test kits during the summer.

As a reminder, at-home test kits are available for free through programs from the Washington State Department of Health and the federal government, and can also be purchased at many local grocery stores and pharmacies. 

Reporting Positive Cases

Faculty, staff and all students in Walla Walla who test positive through a home test or at a local health facility should report their test results immediately to HR (hr@whitman.edu) to ensure that on-campus contact tracing is carried out and to help the college stay compliant with state business regulations. 

On-Campus Isolation Space

We will continue to offer Marcus House as isolation space for any student, including those who are not living on campus during the summer. However, during the summer, any students isolating in Marcus will be responsible for obtaining their own food. This could be done through grocery delivery service, DoorDash or possibly through a friend dropping off items outside of Marcus House. 

COVID-19 Dashboard

Following today’s update to the COVID-19 Dashboard data, we will cease updating data there for the summer. New cases throughout the summer will be reported by email from covidtesting@whitman.edu. The dashboard will remain open as a reference for COVID-19 protocols and to archive the academic year data.

We continue to be thankful for the effort and consideration of all our faculty, staff and students to make Whitman a safe place to work and learn throughout the year. Stay healthy and enjoy the summer!

Best,
Peter

Peter Harvey
Chair, Coronavirus Task Force