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October 14, 2022: October COVID-19 Update

Dear Members of the Whitman Community,

Some people say that “no news is good news”. Because we have seen some positive trends in COVID-19 cases on campus, it has been a while since I have shared an update. A month has passed since we moved to a mask-optional policy and cases have been on the decline. Immediately following the change in policy we saw several consecutive weeks of 24 new COVID-19 campus cases per week. That number dropped to 17 new cases in the last week of September, and last week we only had 5 new cases reported. We have seen several cases trickle in this week, but so far Fall Break does not seem to have drastically affected campus spread. 

While these numbers are encouraging, our consulting epidemiologist points out that, historically, COVID-19 cases have leveled out in October followed by a spike in late November. We are also starting to see cases rising in the eastern part of the United States as well as new variants emerging. For those reasons, it’s important that we do not let our guard down and continue to follow Whitman’s COVID-19 protocols

We can also attribute our lower COVID numbers to being a fully vaccinated campus. As announced last month, we will continue to require that members of the Whitman community stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations as defined by the CDC. That will include the latest bivalent COVID-19 booster created to specifically target the more transmissible Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants.

All eligible faculty, staff and students should receive the new booster by December 31st or receive an approved booster exemption. We have partnered with an outside company in order to streamline the vaccine verification and exemption processes and are in the final stages of setup with that company. I will have more information to share with you about the process very soon.

In the meantime, the “bivalent booster” is now widely available in our area by appointment including at the following locations:

  • Albertsons

  • Rite Aid

  • Safeway

  • Walgreens

  • Walmart

The new booster is not currently available at Walla Walla Clinic or Family Medical Center, but may be in the future. These locations are subject to change and can be verified online.

Thank you for your continued efforts to keep campus healthy by staying up-to-date on vaccines, paying attention to symptoms, and masking when you are a close contact. I know the diligence we have seen among our community will help us as we enter the fall and winter months that inevitably involve more time indoors.

Peter Harvey
Chair, Coronavirus Task Force

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