Novel coronavirus information

August 2, 2021

Masks strongly recommended in UW facilities where they’re not already required (Message to UW students and personnel)

This message is being sent to faculty and other academic personnel, staff, trainees and students across the University of Washington.

Dear UW community members,

Over the last several weeks, thanks in large part to widespread vaccinations in our region, many of us have enjoyed opportunities previously denied by the pandemic: visiting in person with loved ones and friends, spending more time in labs and educational spaces, and envisioning an end to the coronavirus crisis and a return to vibrant campus communities. This joy has been tempered, however, by recent trends of increasing coronavirus infections around the nation and in our region. The fight against COVID-19 is not over, and we must continue to work together as a community to combat it.

Last week, eight Puget Sound region health departments issued a statement recommending everyone wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, as did Gov. Inslee and the CDC. Our own campus public health advisors have also reviewed and endorsed their recommendation. We are now strongly recommending everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask or other face covering indoors when other people are present and in all public and common areas, such as lobbies, hallways, stairways, restrooms, elevators and shared vehicles. We continue to monitor the situation, and we should all be prepared for the possibility that this will become a mandate if public health requires it.

It is already the case that unvaccinated individuals must wear a mask inside every UW facility in accordance with the University’s Face Covering Policy. Face coverings are required regardless of vaccination status at UW Medicine and other clinical locations, at child care facilities, and in UW shuttles. Wearing a mask protects you and protects others and, together with vaccinations, enables us to be in community safely. Everyone should feel comfortable wearing a mask at the UW.

We are actively preparing for a safe, in-person autumn quarter — ensuring safe ventilation systems, reviewing building access policies, and collecting the expert advice and information we need to make final decisions about testing protocols and masking policies. Additionally, we continue to plan for employees without telework agreements to return to in-person work after Sept. 10, and we are working with unit leaders to provide the flexibility needed to account for any changes in the public health situation and the resulting impacts on K-12 schools and services such as child care.

Vaccination rates in our region are among the highest in the nation, and we have every reason to believe they will be even higher within our campus communities. To help us evaluate the health situation on our campuses more accurately, please complete your vaccination attestation as soon as possible. And thank you to the majority of personnel and students who have already done so. The rates at which you’ve reported being fully vaccinated are very encouraging.

Widespread vaccinations are the way out of the pandemic. While no vaccine is 100% effective, evidence clearly supports that those who are fully vaccinated continue to have strong protection against COVID-19, including the Delta variant, with high protection against serious illness or hospitalization even in breakthrough cases. Roughly 97% of cases in Washington over the last few months, including from the Delta variant, have been among people who have not been vaccinated. Please, if you are able, get vaccinated immediately. And since personal conversations are one of the best ways to overcome hesitancy, UW Medicine has tips for talking with friends and loved ones about getting vaccinated.

Additionally, our coronavirus testing strategy for the autumn is being developed. Husky Coronavirus Testing will continue through at least autumn quarter, and any students or personnel who will be coming to a campus this fall are encouraged to enroll in this free service.

As we’ve done throughout the pandemic, we continue to monitor the situation closely with University, regional and state health experts. Should the health situation require any significant changes to University operations for autumn quarter, we will communicate them prior to the end of August.

We recognize that the increasing case rates and resulting health measures can create a sense of disappointment, anxiety and even anger. But only by continuing to come together as a community — including taking actions based on science and care for others — can we end this crisis.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

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