May 8, 2023
This message is being sent to students, staff, faculty and academic personnel across the University of Washington.
Dear UW community,
In response to the current and anticipated public health situation, we are continuing to move the University out of an emergency response mode. I’m writing on behalf of the University’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases to outline what this will mean for our University community. The changes in University policies and practices outlined in this message will be effective June 12, unless otherwise noted.
Current health situation
Changes to the University’s COVID-19 prevention policies and guidelines are regularly evaluated by the University and the UW’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases. Throughout the pandemic, these changes have followed the public health guidelines and regulations in place at the time and reflected the current and expected public health situations.
Thanks to widespread immunity provided by vaccines, as well as following natural exposure to the coronavirus itself, the global and local public health situation has improved significantly. This spring has also seen the ending of Washington state and national emergency orders. While COVID-19 can still result in severe illness for some, the significant level of community immunity means it is no longer an acute threat demanding a pandemic-level response.
Face covering policy
The UW will align its face covering policy with local public health agencies’ guidance. Masks will be optional outside of health-care settings, and we ask that you respect individuals’ choices regarding mask wearing in these situations.
Masks continue to be required in UW health-care settings until at least June 30.
Vaccine requirements changing
With the increased level of community immunity and following updated Food and Drug Administration guidelines, the UW will discontinue its requirement that employees and students receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This follows guidance from public health officials and is in alignment with other Washington universities. Being up to date on COVID-19 vaccination remains very highly encouraged.
One exception is for those in health-care settings. While we anticipate vaccination requirements will change for this group as well, a final decision is pending updated information from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. Additional communications will be sent to impacted health-care personnel once the UW COVID-19 vaccination policy for health-care facilities is updated.
First-time students being admitted for summer 2023, autumn 2023 or later quarters will no longer need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Students covered by the Health Sciences Immunization Program will continue to follow the vaccination requirements communicated by the program staff.
The Husky Coronavirus Testing voluntary research study will be winding down at the end of the academic year and will share more detailed information with participants soon. I want to take this opportunity to thank the faculty, staff and students who created and staffed this program, and those of you who participated in it. You helped advance the health of our community and our scientific understanding of the coronavirus.
The UW will continue to provide free antigen tests in select locations around the University, with those details to be posted to uw.edu/coronavirus as they are determined.
Reporting COVID cases
University students and employees will no longer be required to report all positive COVID-19 test results to the Environmental Health & Safety Department (EH&S). With this change, contact tracing and workplace and classroom notifications will end and the COVID-19 dashboard will be archived. However, personnel who believe they may have acquired COVID-19 illness in the workplace are still required to submit a workplace incident report to EH&S via the Online Accident Reporting System (OARS).
As with any infectious disease, if you have any symptoms please stay home and follow public health guidelines on when it is safe to return to work or class.
EH&S will continue to be available to work with individual units should there be a suspected outbreak and to provide health and safety guidance.
Guidance for staying healthy
Of course, the guidance about staying healthy that we’ve shared in the past is still applicable:
Distancing and capacity constraints
Physical distancing and event capacity constraints were ended in July 2021, meaning we have no COVID-related restrictions on distancing or capacity, including at graduation-related events. Reference the EH&S safety guidance for events for more information.
A summary of the changes to the UW’s COVID-19 practices will be posted on the EH&S website.
Should the public health situation worsen, we are prepared to change our policies and practices in response and would communicate those changes to the University community at that time.
I want to thank you and each and every member of our community for the care and compassion you have shown toward yourselves and each other these past few years. It has been a time of loss but it has also been a time that brought out the best of our University community. And even as we adjust our policies, I hope that community-minded spirit and willingness to work together to overcome challenges remains.
Best wishes for a successful end to the quarter, and congratulations to the Class of 2023!
Geoffrey S. Gottlieb, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair, University Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases (ACCD)
Medical Director, Environmental Health & Safety Department
Professor, School of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Center for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases