Novel coronavirus information

December 21, 2021

Most classes will meet online the first week of winter quarter (Message to UW students and personnel)

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

Dear UW community,

As we track the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, we are mindful of the short time between holiday gatherings and travel and the start of the UW’s winter quarter on Jan. 3. This requires each of us to work together to address the disruptions that this new variant may cause.

To foster a successful start to the winter quarter, during the first week of the quarter — Jan. 3 to 9 — most classes will be held online. Clinical instruction and practicums will still meet in person. Facilities at all three campuses will remain operational during this time — including housing, libraries, advising and student services — and research activities can continue in person. Buildings will remain largely open during work hours. We are committed to a return to in-person education and look forward to that happening on Monday, Jan. 10.

A limited number of lab courses may have an in-person option the first week, and instructors will communicate with students in sections that have this option. Additional information will be sent to all instructors, who should provide guidance to those students whose classes will be in person during the first week of the quarter and continue to offer flexibility to students to account for coronavirus-related disruptions.

A week of primarily online classes will help minimize disruptions caused by the Omicron variant and enable more people to receive a vaccination booster prior to in-person classes. It will also provide an additional week for people to monitor for symptoms and take post-gathering and post-travel COVID tests. To help ensure we have the best information possible, Husky Coronavirus Testing, a voluntary research study, has started sending regular testing invitations to enrollees. The program remains open to new enrollments and many other free testing options are available in our region. If you travel or gather over the break, please get tested upon your return and closely monitor your symptoms.

We recognize the news in recent days — and even this announcement — may spark both concern and a sense of déjà vu. The rapid spread of Omicron does remind us of the spread of the original coronavirus and comes at a time when we are all feeling the losses and the physical, mental and emotional effects of a nearly two-year pandemic.

But much has changed since early 2020. We know more, are better prepared and are a community that is using all the tools available to us to mitigate the risk of infection and illness, starting with extremely high vaccination rates. FDA-authorized vaccines provide protection against severe illness and this protection can be enhanced through booster shots, which are strongly recommended.

We also know how the virus spreads and have tools to protect ourselves and each other, including testing and high-quality masks, thereby reducing the potential for classroom or workplace transmission. Our entire community — and we want to particularly credit our students — has demonstrated a commitment to health and well-being, which enabled us to have a successful, in-person autumn quarter with no known cases of classroom transmission. We will continue to use those tools this winter. We thank instructors for continuing to provide flexibility to students and ask managers to do the same for employees, particularly those facing disruptions to schools or caregiving services.

As we have throughout the pandemic, we’re monitoring the situation with our public health experts and will adjust as necessary. We are particularly watching hospital capacity, disruptions to community supports such as K-12 schools and childcare facilities, and potential changes in local, state or federal policies. We also continue to benefit from the work of UW scientists and their colleagues around the world who are studying the Omicron variant, providing vital information on topics including the effectiveness of vaccines and other health measures. Finally, we will align our vaccine requirement with any change the state might make regarding boosters — but to protect yourself now and avoid a potential rush later, please get one as soon as you are eligible.

While Omicron is a new risk, our community has demonstrated time and again our ability to meet the many challenges posed by the novel coronavirus. Thank you for all that you have done and are doing to keep yourselves, your friends and loved ones, and our community safe and healthy, and best wishes for a joyous winter break.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

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