Novel coronavirus information

August 6, 2020

New details on the pandemic’s effects on autumn quarter learning and working (Message to faculty and staff)

This message was sent to staff, faculty, academic student employees and academic personnel at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. Similar messages were sent to employees at UW Bothell and UW Tacoma.

Dear Colleagues,

In July, we committed to communicating, with as much certainty as possible, what to expect at the start of the academic year as our University, nation and world continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. As we had feared, COVID-19 has continued to spread in our state and county, and we write today with what we expect to be final plans for autumn quarter classes, information we are also sharing with our students and their families today.

In light of current and expected coronavirus case counts in Washington, more than 90% of class sections on the Seattle campus will be held online. Only classes that cannot be taught remotely will be held in person, with appropriate safety measures and physical distancing in place. A revised time schedule has been shared with students with the reminder that the trajectory of the pandemic can change rapidly. Further revisions to our plans could occur if, for example, state or local governments re-introduce more restrictive health measures.

Residence halls and other campus housing will be open for students who need or believe it best to live on campus, and food service operations in our housing facilities will continue, following physical distancing and other safety protocols. Most student services such as advising and technology support will be offered remotely, with limited exceptions. Hall Health will remain open for in-person and remote services. Importantly, research will continue as it has been conducted since the spring, with all appropriate health and safety protocols for laboratory and field work.

In any instances where UW faculty and staff are teaching, conducting research or providing critical services in person, we are committed to ensuring that you can do so with the appropriate protective measures and in sanitized spaces. Staff who can telework will continue to do so throughout the autumn quarter and we remain committed to supporting all faculty and staff with maximum empathy and flexibility throughout the challenging months ahead. If you have questions about your specific work circumstances for the fall, we encourage you to speak with your chair or supervisor about your unit’s local COVID-19 Prevention Plan. We also recognize that many faculty and staff have caregiving responsibilities, and we have commissioned a task force to provide recommendations on additional measures we can take to support caregivers in our UW community. The Caregivers Task Force’s recommendations will be complete prior to the start of autumn quarter.

While we are all disappointed that the continued spread of the virus has limited our ability to safely provide more in-person teaching, we continue to be excited about the learning and discovery in store for our academic community. So many of you, including faculty, teaching assistants, academic support staff and essential workers have engaged in developing innovative and creative approaches to online learning and campus support services. Your inspiring commitment to our educational mission ensures we will have a meaningful and academically-rich autumn, one in which we all do our part to protect health and safety.

Everyone, including students, who comes to campus for any reason must wear a face covering and can expect all gathering and learning spaces to be routinely sanitized. A broad-based, community testing program, in partnership with the Seattle Flu Study (the program that first detected community spread of the coronavirus in the United States), will be in place to help proactively identify and mitigate the spread of the virus. Our Environmental Health and Safety team will continue to be dedicated to University-wide contact tracing, including connecting close contacts potentially exposed to COVID-19 with testing support as needed. Face coverings will be available to all faculty and staff who are required to come to campus and will be required in all indoor campus public spaces or when physical distancing outside is not possible. Any faculty and staff who need to be on campus must complete an attestation of good health before they arrive, as has been the case for several months.

As we continue to wrestle with extraordinarily demanding times, the path forward remains uncertain. Our commitment to each other’s health as well as the shared mission of our great public University must continue to be our North Star. The UW community has been a leader in the fight against COVID-19, not only locally, but in the nation and world. We are also committed to leading in the fight to overcome the racial and economic inequities this pandemic has highlighted and revealed. With great challenges, come great opportunities. Indeed, your achievements will be all the more impressive as a result of what we will overcome together.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

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