Novel coronavirus information

March 22, 2021

Phase 3, extension of telework and new vaccine eligibility (Message to employees)

This message was sent to all faculty, academic personnel and staff at the University of Washington.

Dear Colleagues,

While the University of Washington is on spring break this week, there is still much activity taking place as our state moves forward in its phased recovery and we continue planning for the safe return to our campuses. We’re writing to today to provide you with updates in three key areas.

Phase 3 guidance

Today, all of Washington moved to Phase 3 of the state’s Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan. This raises capacity limits for facilities such as restaurants and recreation centers, as well as for in-person events. The state’s requirement for six feet of distancing remains in effect and often will be the primary factor limiting the capacity of workspaces, labs, classrooms and meeting rooms. Masks continue to be required at all UW facilities, and you must stay home if you have any symptoms. These requirements all apply even if you’re fully vaccinated.

While most spring courses will continue to be offered remotely, Phase 3 provides more opportunities for informal learning and activities on campus, as long as they are safe and operationally feasible. Further guidance on study spaces and expanded co-curricular opportunities will be shared at the beginning of spring quarter.

Environmental Health & Safety and the Back-to-the-Workplace Task Force have updated the COVID-19 recovery status page with a summary on what is allowed in Phase 3. You can also find more guidance on the Back-to-the-Workplace Task Force page regarding Phase 3 and what we expect in Phase 4.

We continue to plan for the safe return to our campuses for largely in-person instruction in autumn quarter and will follow state and local health guidance as we prepare for the fall.

Extension of telework flexibility

Many area K-12 schools are still operating largely remotely, and there continue to be disruptions to caregiving and other support resources for employees. As a result, the University is extending telework flexibility to employees through September 10, 2021. If an employee can telework without impeding operations, they should be allowed to do so.

If an employee can telework but would prefer to come to campus, unit leaders may now authorize them to return to the work environment, so long as it is safe and operationally feasible. The March 19 Back-to-the-Workplace Guidance details the steps necessary to authorize employees to return to campus, including the safety measures required to increase the number of employees working in person.

In cases where an employee has been teleworking but is now needed in person to support operations as the University prepares for autumn quarter, units must provide employees with at least 30 days’ notice before they ask them to report back to work in person. Exceptions can be made for emergency situations and in accordance with relevant collective bargaining agreements.

This spring, the University plans to finalize guidance on remote work in the post-pandemic environment, with the goal of allowing more flexibility in working arrangements while still fulfilling our mission as a university where the majority of learning and research is conducted in person.

New vaccine eligibility

Last week, the state moved to Phase 1B – Tier 2 of its vaccine eligibility plan. Vaccines are now available to critical workers in certain high-risk settings, people who are pregnant and people who have a disability that puts them at high risk for severe illness (as defined by Department of Health guidance), as well as any individuals eligible under previous tiers. And last Thursday, Gov. Inslee announced that individuals in Phase 1B – Tier 3 and Tier 4 will be eligible for vaccination starting March 31.

UW Medicine is scheduling first-dose vaccinations for eligible individuals through its vaccine appointment line waitlist. If you meet the state’s current eligibility requirements, you can join the waitlist by calling (844) 520-8700 and you’ll be contacted by phone or text when it’s your turn to make an appointment. You can also receive a vaccine at many local pharmacies and vaccination sites. UW Medicine employees should continue to use the employee vaccine survey.

In the event you are unable to secure an appointment outside of work hours, the University is granting employees up to two hours of release time (per shot) to get vaccinated. Employees should work with their managers to ensure that time away from work doesn’t impede critical operations.

UW Medicine also operates a standby list to ensure no vaccine doses go to waste. Any individual in Phase 1A or Phase 1B (Tiers 1-4) can sign up to be notified if there are doses available at the end of each vaccine clinic.

We know the gradual reopening of our society and our campuses brings with it a new set of anxieties and difficulties, in some ways more complex than the sudden shift to remote work and instruction last March. Thank you — again and in advance — for the work we are undertaking together to transition safely as we continue our service to our students, state and society.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

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