Novel coronavirus information

June 2, 2022

Current COVID-19 conditions and looking ahead to summer and fall (Message to the UW community)

This message is being sent to students, staff, faculty and academic personnel across the University of Washington on behalf of the UW Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases.

In this message:

  • Current COVID-19 conditions
  • Summer and fall health measures
  • Adding antigen rapid tests to the University’s testing options
  • Recommendations for commencement-related celebrations

Dear UW community,

We’re approaching the last week of the quarter, including in-person commencement celebrations for the first time since 2019, marking a time of joy and celebration for our entire community.

It’s also the case that we continue to see elevated COVID-19 case counts in our region, and so it’s important to continue to take appropriate precautions. I’m writing to update you on current conditions, as well as to share with you the University’s plans for promoting health and well-being as we continue with in-person classes, experiences and work this summer and fall.

Current COVID-19 conditions

Since the end of March, we’ve seen elevated case counts in our region, driven by fewer COVID-19 restrictions and the more transmissible Omicron BA.2 subvariant. This has understandably led to rising case counts at the University, and in April we adjusted our masking guidance to strongly recommend high-quality masks indoors in response to this increase.

As a result of high levels of vaccination — including booster shots — and growing levels of immunity due to infections, hospitalizations have not risen at nearly the same rate as in previous waves. As of today, both King and Pierce counties remain in the “medium” level on the Centers for Disease Control’s county-by-county COVID-19 Community Level assessment, and we do not anticipate major changes to University policies between now and the end of the academic year.

Summer and fall health measures

As we plan for summer and fall, we will continue to take a multi-pronged approach to health and well-being across the University.


Our University mask policy continues to be guided by CDC’s community level assessment and state and local health guidance. Currently, masks are strongly recommended indoors while King and/or Pierce County remain in the “medium” community level CDC category. Should one of the counties move into the “high” category, or we experience increases in campus transmission and/or the emergence of a more virulent variant, our mask policy will be reevaluated.

Masks continue to be required in health-care and clinical facilities. This includes the Health Sciences Express, UW/Fred Hutch South Lake Union and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance shuttles.

Masks should be well fitted and high quality, such as N95, KN95, KF94 and surgical masks. These types of masks protect the wearer better than a cloth face covering and we will continue to make them available at no cost on each campus during the coming quarters.


We will also continue to follow the state’s requirements when it comes to vaccinations. Vaccinations remain a condition of employment for personnel and a condition of enrollment for students. At this time, the state has not required booster shots, but we continue to strongly encourage you to keep your vaccination up to date by getting boosted.

COVID-19 case response

UW Environmental Health & Safety will continue to track and respond to COVID-19 cases, including contact tracing when students or personnel report a positive test, and maintain the COVID-19 dashboard. Activating the WA Notify app gives you an additional way to receive exposure notifications — and to anonymously notify others if you test positive.

Adding antigen rapid tests to the University’s testing options

COVID-19 testing will remain a central part of the University’s prevention and response. Since fall 2020, Husky Coronavirus Testing (HCT), a voluntary research study, has provided polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for University community members enrolled in the program at no cost to them. The HCT study will continue in the coming academic year, and we’ll also be evolving our University testing options based on what we’ve learned over the past nearly two years.

One evolution is that the University will have rapid antigen self-test kits available at several distribution sites on all our campuses at no cost to UW students and personnel. These tests are provided separate from the HCT study, and you won’t need to be enrolled in the study to receive an antigen test kit. Information about the distribution sites will be available on in the coming weeks. Units utilizing antigen tests to support their operations (e.g., overnight field operations) can also purchase test kits from the UW Clean and Safe Storefront.

We will continue to offer PCR tests at locations staffed by Husky Coronavirus Testing study personnel on the Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell campuses and at the UW Medicine South Lake Union complex. Locations and hours will change during the summer and will be your source for updates. For example, this summer the testing site at the UW Club in Seattle will close and be replaced with longer hours at the staffed drop-box sites.

On the Seattle campus, you can also get a PCR test at Hall Health Primary Care Clinic by appointment or pick up a self-test antigen kit at the Hall Health pharmacy. UW Medicine will continue offering PCR testing at the E4 parking lot site next to Montlake Boulevard. We’ll continue to list testing options on, including the free rapid tests available from the state and federal government for home delivery.

UW Environmental Health & Safety has guidance on how to choose between a PCR and antigen test based on your specific situation.

Recommendations for commencement-related celebrations

As we prepare to celebrate this year’s graduates, as well as to welcome back the graduates from the 2020 and 2021 classes for in-person celebrations, it is important to remember that indoor social gatherings are one of the primary venues in which the coronavirus is spread and where we are seeing clusters of transmission among students and personnel. As a result, please take a few basic steps to keep you and your loved ones safe as you gather this commencement season.

  • If you have symptoms of any respiratory infection, do not go to work or class or socialize with others.
  • Getting vaccinated and boosted remains your best way to avoid serious illness from COVID-19, and boosters are widely available.
  • Celebrate outdoors if you can and wear a mask when gathering indoors.
  • Test before you gather: If you are planning to attend or host a social gathering, taking a coronavirus test beforehand — particularly a rapid test immediately before the gathering — is a good way to reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading it to others. It is also a good idea to take a test 3–5 days after the event.
  • If you do test positive, report it to UW Environmental Health & Safety to help reduce transmission to others.
  • Finally, activate WA Notify on your phone so you can receive exposure notifications and anonymously let others know of their exposure if you test positive.

If you or a loved one do test positive and have any one of a number of conditions that put you at higher risk for severe illness, please also know that there are antiviral medications available that can treat infections. UW Medicine has more information available about these options, as well as a monoclonal antibody for pre-exposure prevention for high-risk individuals.

On behalf of the UW’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, thank you for all that you have done — and that you continue to do — to keep yourselves and our community healthy and well this academic year. And congratulations to the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022!


Geoffrey S. Gottlieb, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair, University Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases (ACCD)
Medical Director, Environmental Health & Safety Department
Professor, School of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Center for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases