Fall Quarter community health update
Welcome back to campus, Western!
We are just a few weeks from the start of another academic year at Western, and we wanted to tell you how excited we are to see our newest students, returning students, and employees. We hope you have had a wonderful and restful summer and are set for a great year ahead.
As you might imagine, the campus has been a hive of activity in preparation for the start of school, and that includes a lot of work assessing where we are as a university from a public health perspective and preparing to make the campus as safe as possible in the 2022-23 academic year. For returning students, we want to explain what is new compared to last year; for new students, we want to introduce you to information with links to where you can go to find out more information. For faculty and staff, we include information on where you where you can go to access helpful resources.
Western requires all students to submit proof of both Measles and COVID vaccinations or immunity (in the case of Measles) to attend classes and/or live in housing.
As was the case last year, all students must submit proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (either a single shot of Johnson & Johnson or two shots of Moderna, Pfizer, or any other WHO approved vaccine) or have an approved vaccine exemption on file. You can find out how to submit your vaccine record at the Student Health Center’s vaccine page, here. If you want more information about how to apply for an exemption, go to Western’s vaccine information page at https://www.wwu.edu/coronavirus/vaccines. COVID boosters are not required but are strongly encouraged.
If you were immunized in Washington state and need to find your records, they are on file at WashingtonMyIR.
Masking is encouraged but not required on Western’s campus, except for a few health-related offices such as the Student Health Center, Counseling and Wellness Center, Disability Access Center and Speech and Language Clinic. Please note that this status may change depending on transmission levels in Whatcom County; all of campus will be notified should that occur.
Campus COVID testing
If students have mild COVID-like symptoms or know they have been exposed to the coronavirus, they can get tested at the university COVID testing center in College Hall. To make your appointment online, go to your MyWesternHealth portal. For more information, go to https://studenthealth.wwu.edu/covid-19-testing.
Currently, thanks to low transmission levels locally, students who are in class via an approved COVID vaccine exemption are not required to get mandatory testing through the College Hall testing center each week; please note that as with masking, this is based on local transmission levels and could change as caseloads rise.
For employees, the university is no longer partnering with Northwest Labs for testing services. Information on how to request free home tests can be found on Western’s Covid Health and Safety website, or Western will provide home tests for you to pick up as needed. Details on how to request these home test kits will be forthcoming.
What if you feel sick?
First, please stay home until you feel better. Western students with mild COVID-like symptoms such as congestion/runny nose or sore throat can obtain a COVID-19 test at the College Hall COVID Testing Facility. If you have more significant symptoms (cough, fever, loss of taste/smell), do not go to College Hall. Instead, please call the Student Health Center during business hours at 360-650-3400 and ask to speak to a nurse. You can also send a secure message via MyWesternHealth. If you test positive for COVID, the university will reach out with next steps including possibly moving you to isolation housing on campus if you are a campus resident. Find out more about isolation and quarantine on campus and how it works here.
For employees, if you feel sick, we strongly encourage you to take off from work and stay home as it applies. Take sick leave and be away from the office so you may recover. Once you feel better, we will gladly welcome you back to work. This protocol applies to any illness, not just COVID.
Flu season is on the way
We know, one more thing to worry about! But getting a flu shot for the upcoming flu season (fall and winter) can positively impact your respiratory system and help prevent a “stacking” of two severe respiratory illnesses. Western will announce a flu shot clinic on campus this fall; stay tuned for more information via your campus email, social media, and Western Today.
Monkeypox has been in the news this summer, but as of Sept. 7, only 1 case had been reported in the county. The Student Health Center has set up a monkeypox information site here, but the threat to campus from monkeypox is quite low. We will continue to monitor monkeypox case counts and trends and will update the Western community as necessary in the weeks and months ahead.
Test before you arrive
Whether you are coming to campus to move in for the first time or are returning for another great year at Western, we ask that you take a home test before coming to campus (there is no need to submit your result). These last-minute checks caught many students who had no idea they were even sick last year, helping prevent a more significant surge of virus on campus at the start of the quarter. Please do your part and take a home test before you pack up that car; your roommate, hallmates, and friends will thank you!
This email wasn’t meant to handle every possible question you might have, it is just to lay the framework for a healthy quarter. We can all do our part to make sure that happens by washing our hands, wearing our masks whenever we can, being up to date on our vaccines, and being mindful of how our bodies feel. Have any further questions? Reach out for answers to COVIDCoordinationResilience@wwu.edu.
Have a great fall quarter!
Sislena Ledbetter PhD
WWU Assistant Vice President for Counseling, Health and Wellbeing
David Hansen MD
Interim Medical Director, WWU Student Health Center