Novel coronavirus information

August 13, 2021

Masks required for all individuals in all UW facilities (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,

In response to the increased spread of the coronavirus in the communities surrounding our campuses and based on updated recommendations from University of Washington health experts, effective Saturday, August 14, the University is reinstating an indoor mask mandate for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. A mask or other suitable face covering is required indoors when other people are present and in all public and common areas, such as lobbies, hallways, stairways, restrooms, elevators and shared vehicles.

One key exception, in keeping with our educational mission, is that University personnel verified to be fully vaccinated in accordance with the University’s COVID-19 Vaccination Policy may remove their face coverings when presenting to or instructing a group or class in an large space from behind a podium or in a stage-like setting*, if the face covering interferes with communication and when a physical distance of least 6 feet between the presenter/instructor and others can be maintained. UW Medicine clinical personnel should continue to follow UW Medicine policies, and masks are encouraged for everyone when in crowded outdoor settings where distancing isn’t possible.

We continue to rely on a multi-layered approach for limiting transmission at the University. The addition of masks as a layer of protection on top of vaccines will significantly reduce the chances of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals spreading the coronavirus in a classroom, laboratory or workplace. And as we continue to plan for in-person instruction and work this fall, it is precisely this combination of powerful vaccines and high-quality, well-fitting masks — along with measures like testing and ventilation — that will allow us to be on our campuses together, safely.

This indoor mask mandate will remain in place until further notice as we monitor the spread of the virus in surrounding communities and adjust masking, testing and other health requirements for autumn quarter accordingly. As we have done since the start of the pandemic, we will continue to make informed decisions with health and well-being as our priorities.

Recently we have been encouraged by the fact that nearly half of UW students have already completed their vaccination attestation, and they attest to being fully vaccinated at a rate well above 90%. We’re seeing similar vaccination rates with UW personnel. Vaccination rates at the UW will be a significant factor in ongoing decisions regarding masks and other health measures, so please get vaccinated if you haven’t already, and attest to your vaccination status. The vaccines provide strong, proven protection from serious illness and hospitalizations. They can also reduce the risk that new variants will develop, spurring new surges and hence more restrictive measures like we’re seeing now.

Additionally, while Gov. Inslee’s new vaccine mandate for state employees and health-care workers did not include higher education institutions, it does apply to health-care settings. UW Medicine, the School of Dentistry and other clinical environments are changing their vaccination requirements to follow this mandate, including by removing the option to claim a philosophical exemption. We are also working toward aligning our University vaccination requirements for students and personnel with the new state mandate to limit exemptions to only medical and religious reasons.^ We’ll share details on those changes in the near future, as well as information on vaccination verification and testing protocols before the end of August.

The coronavirus pandemic will ebb and flow, and as we come back in community, we should be prepared for the tightening and relaxing of restrictions for some time further. But the pandemic will end — and that end will come sooner if we all act to protect each other and, thereby, ourselves. Thank you for your continued efforts.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

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

More information:
UW COVID-19 Face Covering Policy
UW Environmental Health & Safety Face Covering Requirements webpage


^ Sentence updated on Aug. 13 to make it clear that this refers to the University’s intent to align its overall vaccination requirements with the state mandate, namely to limit exemptions to include only medical and religious reasons. This change is already being made for UW clinical environments covered by Gov. Inslee’s order.

* Sentence updated Sept. 22 to add “in an large space from behind a podium or in a stage-like setting” in order to align with revisions to the UW Face Covering Policy that were made in accordance with the statewide indoor mask mandate.