Looking ahead to start of in-person classes and services on Jan 10th

Dear Western Community,

I wanted to reach out to you with an update and to respond to a number of questions that our administrative offices and COVID Support Team have received this week as we prepare to begin in-person classes and continue in-person services and activities on January 10.

Based on the advice and sound data from numerous public health officials, we are preparing for higher case counts on campus than we experienced during last fall’s Delta surge, but we expect those cases to be much less severe due to our community’s 95% vaccination rate, masking rules and testing programs to help limit the spread of Omicron as much as possible.  As President Biden has recently stated, we are reaching a point in the pandemic of managing, not controlling, the virus and we have the tools to manage it well, including vaccines, booster shots, masking rules and flexible learning and work arrangements for vulnerable individuals. In short, our goal is to work through the Omicron wave, not stop our forward momentum because of it.

In talking with physicians and scientists who have informed our policies and helped steer our path throughout the COVID pandemic, what we hear is that the vast majority of those with Omicron experience the symptoms of a common cold. That doesn’t mean we take this lightly; far from it. We will need to work through the next month or so as a community, committed to helping one another and to being flexible. For faculty, this could mean accommodating higher than usual student absences; for students, it could mean moving between in-person and remote learning if instructors test positive; for supervisors, it could mean allowing for remote work when needed.

We’ll continue to follow the same common-sense guidelines that have served us so well to this point:

  • Mask up
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid socializing in groups with people of unknown vaccination status
  • Get tested if desired or needed
  • Get vaccinated, and most importantly, get your booster, if you haven’t already, and as soon as you are eligible if you currently are not

All the available data shows that vaccinations, and now booster shots, are our single greatest shield against severe illness from Omicron.

We know that in-person learning is vitally important to our students, and our strength as an institution comes from our work together in solving challenges and discovering new creative solutions. Omicron is the newest hurdle for us as a community, and we will, as we have for the past two years, get past it together.  My sincere gratitude for the work each of you is doing to protect one another and keep us on track for a successful 2022.


Sabah Randhawa