Novel coronavirus information

May 18, 2021

Guidance on returning to campuses, mask requirement (Message to employees)

This message is being sent to faculty, academic personnel, staff and student employees across the University of Washington.

Dear Colleagues,

With case counts falling thanks in large part to growing numbers of Washingtonians getting vaccinated, last week Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the state will lift most of its coronavirus restrictions June 30 — sooner if we reach vaccination goals. This is the latest positive indicator that the optimism about an in-person autumn quarter is well founded.

As we said during last week’s town hall, we’re going to create a “new normal” that combines all of what we’ve learned over the past 14+ months about safety, learning and being together in a vibrant community. As we do that, we’ll continue to be nimble, follow the science, and uphold our values and our public mission as the University for Washington.

Today we’re sharing details on an important part of our return — guidance for what the “post-pandemic” workplace will be like — as well as updates on planning around additional instructional resources and mask and vaccine requirements.

Updated guidance on telework and the return to onsite work

Our University is a place where people from around the world come together to learn, teach, discover and serve, and being in community together helps us advance our public mission. Before the pandemic, we came together almost exclusively in person. Of course, technology supplemented those experiences, such as through flipped classrooms, but it was as an addition to our in-person community. The pandemic forced us to adapt and innovate, and technology became the way that we were able to stay connected. We are so grateful to all of you for the ways you adapted and ensured that we continued to provide an excellent education to our students and to perform all the vital roles of a public research university.

As we emerge from the pandemic, we will once again return to our campuses and be in community together in the same spaces. As we do so, we can also carry forward pandemic-era innovations and use them to enhance our on-campus experiences. When used intentionally and responsibly, technology can expand our reach, increase our impact, incentivize recruitment and retention, and enhance employee flexibility in ways we had not previously considered.

Last Thursday, the Board of Deans and Chancellors, President’s Cabinet, and HR partners and administrators received telework guidance for staff covering the timeframe after Sept. 10, 2021. It was also posted to and is accompanied by new UWHR resources on the return to onsite work and telework.

The new telework guidance for staff provides unit leaders the flexibility to work with their teams on how to incorporate more telework into their operations in ways that are consistent with achieving their unit’s missions and business needs. As we do this, certain functions should be prioritized for in-person work, including essential and clinical operations, instruction, research, student services, and services provided to the public, as well as the support services that underpin our teaching, research, clinical and service operations.

Taken together, these guidelines will enable us to safely achieve our missions and come together in community with each other, while still providing flexibility and making use of the innovations developed during these challenging times.

Masks still required, employee vaccine requirement under discussion

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is still developing rules in response to new CDC guidance easing masking and distancing requirements for fully vaccinated individuals. The UW’s existing face covering policy and distancing requirements will remain in effect until at least June 30. Regardless of your vaccination status, when at a UW campus or facility please continue to wear a mask indoors when other people are present and when you are in common areas, and outdoors when you can’t maintain a six-foot distance from others.

Additionally, we are continuing consultations with faculty, academic personnel and staff leadership, as well as with state officials, on whether to implement a coronavirus vaccination requirement for employees, similar to the one announced for students. We expect to have more to share on that topic prior to the end of the academic year, but regardless of whether a requirement is implemented, it is our expectation that everyone in the UW community who is able to be vaccinated will do so. For your health and the health of our community, please get vaccinated as soon as you can.

UW Medicine employees should continue to follow UW Medicine policies for mask use and vaccination within the clinical environments.

Instructional resources in development

Guidance and resources for in-person instruction and cocurricular activities during autumn quarter are being developed by groups of instructors, instructional designers, and teaching and learning experts from across all three campuses. We are gathering feedback from across the University as we finalize the guidance, with the goal of sharing these resources by June 1. This timeframe will also give us the opportunity to account for expected revisions to the state’s higher education safety guidelines.

The trends in our region are positive, and we continue to be very optimistic about the autumn quarter — and that optimism will only grow as more of our community gets vaccinated. Thank you for continuing to do your part to end this crisis, and for your flexibility as we enter this period of transition and return to campuses that will once again be vibrant and full of life.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

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