Novel coronavirus information

June 29, 2020

New details on our plans for autumn quarter (Message to Seattle faculty & staff)

This message is being sent to staff, faculty and other academic personnel, and academic student employees on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. Messages were also sent to UW Bothell faculty & staff and the message to UW Tacoma faculty & staff with details specific to their campuses.

Dear Colleagues,

Over the past few months, people across the University have been hard at work preparing for how we can be safely together on our campuses when conditions in our region allow us to do so. We are now able to share more details about plans for autumn quarter. We are also sharing similar information with our new and returning students, as well as their families.

First, it is clear that protecting the health of our community is a responsibility we all share. It’s also clear that we will all need to be flexible. No one can predict with absolute certainty the course the pandemic will take, and it is possible that we may have to again pivot to all-remote learning, as we did in spring quarter, if the virus is spreading too quickly in our state. Recent reports of rising cases around the country, including here in Seattle and in neighborhoods where students live and gather, remind us that the coronavirus can spread rapidly when proper precautions aren’t taken. It’s important to note that our plans for autumn quarter are based upon King County being in Phase 3 of the state’s Safe Start process by then, and our plans are aligned with guidelines recently released by Governor Inslee for colleges and universities in our state.

Our University’s public mission is important to many people. Our goal for the fall is to provide a high-quality Husky Experience for every student, to support the vital research and service missions of the UW, and to continue to provide the outstanding medical care that keeps our community healthy and has been so instrumental in combating this virus.

Classes and academics
Classes will begin as scheduled on Sept. 30, in a hybrid approach. We are offering as many in-person courses as possible, prioritizing hands-on courses, such as studio, clinical and lab courses, and courses for first-year undergraduate and graduate students. The time schedule has been updated for most courses to indicate which courses will be taught in person and which will be taught remotely. Schools and colleges will continue to update the schedule over the course of the summer as they finalize their plans, and you can read more about how courses were prioritized in a message sent to instructors on Friday.

To maintain a safe six feet of physical distance among students and instructors, small classes will meet in big rooms. Large classes — including all courses of 50 students or more — will be taught remotely. To allow for appropriately distanced passing between classes, we will not schedule courses back to back where physical distancing is impossible because of narrow hallways and limited queuing spaces.

Students who choose not to return to campus, such as for health reasons or because of travel considerations, will be able to continue their academic progress through remote instruction. Additionally, we will continue to have computers and other technology available to borrow like we did in the spring, and the many services that help students make the most of their Husky Experience will be available this fall both for students studying on campus and those studying remotely.

Staying healthy
Protecting our health and the health of our community will take a commitment from each and every one of us. We will expect all UW students to do their part, and for each of us to model best practices.

All of our decisions, policies and procedures are based on consultation with public health experts and are examined through an equity lens. We recognize that every individual’s circumstances are different, and we know that some of us have underlying health conditions that put us more at risk for contracting COVID-19. Those instructors at higher risk should consult with their chairs or deans about modes of instruction and scheduling, and staff should consult with their supervisors. Accommodations can also be requested through Human Resources Disability Services in the same manner as other accommodations.

Each unit is completing a COVID-19 Prevention Plan and Safe Start Checklist, which details how it will protect its students and employees when we are able to return more people to campus. You can also find information from the Back-to-the-Workplace Task Force.

Additionally, the University has established policies, including requiring students, employees and visitors to wear masks when they are indoors near other people and outdoors if people are unable to stay six feet apart. Contact tracing and voluntary expanded testing to spot any potential outbreaks early will also be part of our campus protocols. Our testing protocol is in development with faculty and clinical expertise from across campus and will be finalized soon.

We will also expect everyone to practice the good and now familiar hygiene recommendations of public health officials: washing your hands often, using hand sanitizer and monitoring your temperature and other changes to your health.

Students, staff and faculty who get sick now and in the fall must stay home and self-isolate. Employees should follow their normal department procedure for calling out sick, and are also required to contact an Employee Health Center should they test positive for or be suspected to have COVID-19. For students who live on campus, we will have residence hall rooms set aside for those who test positive for COVID-19 and need a place to isolate while recovering.

Housing and dining
We will welcome students back to campus housing, and those who have applied to live on campus will receive communications regarding next steps in the assignment process from Housing & Food Services, including information about room assignments, dining and the use of community spaces. Other on-campus food services will be available throughout campus this fall, following strict hygienic and physical distancing protocols as mandated by Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Campus gathering spaces
Spaces such as the Husky Union Building and the Burke Museum are being prepared to open for in-person services and small gatherings. Physical distancing guidelines for various facilities will be posted and available this fall directly from these and other facilities and offices.

More questions?
Join us for an online Back-to-School Town Hall with UW leaders at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, July 10. You can send your questions in advance to A recording will be posted following the town hall, and you can also visit for up-to-date information and resources.

These are extraordinary times, and it has involved a herculean effort across the University to respond to this pandemic while also planning for the future. Thank you for your service to our students and community. Our collective efforts will enable us to unite as Huskies on our campuses and worldwide, advancing our shared mission and continuing our journey together, safely.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

Mark Richards
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of Earth and Space Sciences