Novel coronavirus information

January 19, 2021

Spring quarter plans and returning to campus this fall (Message to Seattle employees)

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

Dear Colleagues,

We hope you’ve had a successful start to the new year, despite the challenges posed by the strife in our country and the continued suffering caused by the pandemic. In advance of the spring quarter time schedule being posted this Friday, we are writing to share the plans for the Seattle campus this spring, as well as our intent to return to in-person instruction this fall.

The coronavirus continues to infect more than 200,000 people in the United States each day and January is poised to be the most tragic month of the pandemic to date. While vaccines are being administered here in Washington and beyond, vaccination efforts are not expected to contain the virus enough to allow for significant relaxation of health restrictions by the start of spring quarter on March 29.

As a result, during spring quarter we plan to continue most courses online, similar to winter quarter, while at the same time planning to offer more in-person student services and activities as the quarter progresses and as state and local health guidelines allow. Depending on health guidelines, instructors will also have the flexibility to offer optional, in-person, class-related activities, such as physically distanced advising, so long as students taking those courses remotely are not disadvantaged. Each unit has a COVID-19 Prevention Plan and Safe Start Checklist that provides guidance on what activities are allowed during each phase of our response. In addition, we are in the process of evaluating the Governor’s new Healthy Washington plan to ensure our current prevention plans are compliant with the new guidance. We expect any updates or changes to be minor.

Those courses held in person will once again largely be clinical instruction, certain labs, and arts- and performance-based courses, and will continue to have appropriate safety measures and physical distancing in place. All undergraduate and most graduate students will still have the option to continue their academic progress through fully remote instruction. However, within UW Medicine and other graduate health sciences programs, for example, a large portion of instruction continues in person due to teaching and learning that must take place in hospitals and clinics.

While the prospects for spring are not what any of us would have hoped, based on projections from health experts we are looking forward to welcoming students back to campus for an autumn quarter with largely in-person classes. Summer session courses will likely be a mix of remote and in-person courses, as health guidelines allow. We are also in active discussions about ways in which we can safely and appropriately recognize those who will graduate this year, because we know how meaningful these events are to graduates and their families.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, our decisions are guided by discussions with faculty leaders, student leaders, the Board of Deans and Chancellors, the UW Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, and public health experts. And because we each are facing different circumstances, these decisions are examined through an equity lens.

Employees who are currently teleworking can expect to continue to do so through June 30, 2021, so long as it doesn’t impede critical operations. Instructors should consult with their chairs, directors or deans about modes of instruction and scheduling, and staff should consult with their supervisors if they have questions about their individual working arrangements. Employees can also request accommodations through the Disability Services Office, and we ask that everyone please provide flexibility and grace to all members of our University community, particularly those who have caregiving responsibilities.

Our progress to more in-person classes and operations depends on the effective distribution of vaccines and on each of us continuing to follow health guidance. We should each continue to practice the 3 W’s — Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Watch your distance. — and take part in Husky Coronavirus Testing. Additionally, we both pledge to take a coronavirus vaccine as soon as we are eligible and encourage you to do the same.

We’ll continue to post updates and resources on, which includes a summary of resources for employees. UW Bothell, UW Tacoma and UW Medicine also have additional resources for their communities.

Thank you for the grace and compassion you have shown each other — and yourselves — during these challenging times. There is light on the horizon and working together we will get to a time when we can all be together, in person, as a community once more.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

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