Novel coronavirus information

January 24, 2022

Returning to largely in-person classes and experiences Jan. 31 (Message to instructors and staff)

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

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for your fortitude and flexibility during this difficult and challenging start to the winter quarter. Your collective hard work has enabled our students to continue to learn and conduct research, kept our campuses safe and operational, and ensured that all those who rely on the University of Washington continue to be served.

When we decided to continue largely online instruction beyond the first week of the quarter, it was in order to better assess and monitor our situation in light of the new Omicron variant; to give our students, faculty and staff time to get boosted and tested; and to mitigate the expected disruptions to learning and operations due to students, instructors and staff needing to isolate or quarantine if they tested positive after the holidays.

As predicted, case counts in our region are now declining and are expected to continue to decline. The initial surge of cases at our University is also declining, and we continue to have no indication of classroom transmission in classes that have been meeting in the past three weeks during the peak of Omicron. And the limited number of workplace-related transmissions over this and autumn quarter have occurred in situations where masks were not consistently worn.

Based on these improvements, we are now ready to welcome our students back to largely in-person classes and experiences on Monday, Jan. 31, as planned. Instructors are expected to return classes to the mode of instruction listed in the time schedule. In consultation with your dean, chair or director, you may alter a course’s instructional modality, including a temporary change to remote instruction, for limited periods of time if there are COVID-related factors that impact your ability to teach in person, such as a need to isolate or quarantine or disruptions to day care or K-12 schools. Thank you in advance for giving students as much advance notice as possible of any such change.

We also ask that you be flexible with those students who need to miss class due to illness, the need to quarantine or other coronavirus-related disruptions and provide them options for continuing their learning and making up any missed work. However, you are not expected to provide in-person and remote instruction simultaneously. Additional information for instructors is available on

We will continue to prioritize in-person learning, even as absences or specific circumstances make temporary modality changes for individual courses necessary. We will also continue to prioritize in-person services, including those related to students, research and patient care. We recognize every individual’s situation is different, and unit leaders continue to have flexibility to authorize remote work arrangements for staff, so long as prioritized operations can continue. It’s also possible for instructors, staff and students to request accommodations due to health conditions or other extenuating circumstances.

Thank you to instructors and instructional staff for continuing to provide flexibility and understanding to students, and to managers for providing that same flexibility and understanding to their teams. And thank you to everyone who has continued to work in person during the start to the winter quarter, and in some instances the entire pandemic.

Our public health experts emphasize that well-fitting, high-quality masks make a significant difference. Please level up your protection with a KN95, KF94, N95 or surgical mask as you are able. We have also purchased a large number of surgical and KN95 masks that will be made available to students, instructors and staff at various locations on each campus — details will be posted to this week. These are in addition to the other mitigation measures, such as increased ventilation. Booster shots also provide additional protection so please get one as soon as you are eligible, and in advance of any potential change to the state’s vaccination requirement. Finally, testing options in our region continue to expand and now include rapid tests that are mailed to you.

We recognize the tremendous amount of effort that goes into teaching and working during these uncertain times, which is taking a toll on us all. But please be mindful that some individuals and communities have experienced heightened stress and losses. You never know the extra burdens some are carrying — a little kindness can go a long way toward easing them. It is especially important for us to do our best to support one another and to ask for support when it is needed. Benefits-eligible employees can connect with support through CareLink — please ask for help if you need it.

We wish we could say definitively this will be the last time the coronavirus causes this level of disruption to our lives, because we know the anxiety and other effects that uncertainty causes. While we can’t promise certainty, what we can promise is that we will continue to follow the science and be guided by our health experts. We’ll also follow our values as an institution and recognize the many different ways the pandemic has impacted all of us. We will continue to work with Faculty Senate, unions and the Professional Staff Organization to ensure that these disruptions don’t unduly impair your ability to continue to progress in your career here. And while the coronavirus will be with us for the foreseeable future, projections by scientists at the UW and elsewhere suggest we will likely soon move from the pandemic phase to the endemic phase and enter a time when this virus no longer upends society. Boosters, masks and other measures are helping us get to that future sooner and more safely.

These have been a difficult two years, and throughout that time, you have demonstrated again and again your commitment to our students, your colleagues and our mission, finding innovative ways to address the many varying challenges we face. Thank you for the ways you’ve cared for yourselves and your colleagues, and for the dedication you’ve shown in supporting our students and all those who depend on the University of Washington.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

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