Novel coronavirus information

September 14, 2022

Updates on the UW’s response to COVID-19 and monkeypox (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.

Dear UW community,

We are two weeks from the start of the autumn quarter at the University of Washington. On behalf of the UW’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, I’m writing to share information about current health conditions – specifically the COVID-19 pandemic and the monkeypox outbreak – and steps we can take together to help ourselves and our community be healthy and well as we start the academic year.


As governments and society more broadly have moved from an emergency response to COVID-19 to one focused on reducing risk over the long term, so too is the University utilizing a multi-layered approach as outlined in the UW’s COVID-19 Prevention Plan.

Over the past month, we have seen the number of COVID-19 cases in our region and at the University decline. King County (home to UW Bothell and the Seattle campus) and Pierce County (home to UW Tacoma) have dropped into the “low” community level on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk assessment and Governor Inslee recently announced the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency orders and public health emergency, effective October 31. With the return of greater numbers of students, personnel and visitors to campuses this fall, we do expect to see a temporary uptick in cases, just as we have seen at the beginning of previous quarters.

In addition to the University’s ongoing response – such providing vaccines, masks and testing and maintaining good indoor ventilation – there are also steps we can each take to benefit ourselves and our community as we return for autumn quarter. These will also help reduce the spread of respiratory viruses in general during “cold and flu season.” These include:

More information is available at, which will be updated throughout the quarter.


This summer we have also seen outbreaks locally and globally of a rare viral infection known commonly as monkeypox. So far, 520 people in Washington state have been infected, most of whom live in King County.

While monkeypox is significantly less transmissible than COVID-19, the University is closely monitoring the situation. Since this virus has been known to medical science for some time, we generally know how it spreads and have existing vaccines and treatments.

The UW Environmental Health & Safety Department (EH&S) has compiled more comprehensive information about monkeypox, including symptoms, risk factors and resources if you or someone you know becomes infected. In summary:

  • Symptoms: The monkeypox illness can begin with flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, back and muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and general exhaustion. This is followed by a local or generalized rash that is usually painful and can look like pimples or blisters. If you experience symptoms like these, contact a health-care provider immediately.

  • Risk factors: Monkeypox can spread between people through close or intimate contact – including skin-to-skin and sexual contact – with a person who has monkeypox. It is also possible, though less likely, to be transmitted through direct contact with respiratory secretions and objects (personal items) that have been used by a person with monkeypox. We continue to learn more about how monkeypox is spreading during this current outbreak.

    Anyone can be infected with monkeypox if they have close or intimate contact with someone who has monkeypox, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Thus far, many of those affected in the current global outbreaks are gay and bisexual men, or other men who have sex with men, including people who may identify as non-binary, gender queer or transgender. That’s why they’re among those currently prioritized to receive vaccinations against monkeypox.

    Settings and events where attendees are fully clothed and unlikely to have prolonged skin-to-skin contact, such as University classrooms and workplaces, are low risk. However, monkeypox can spread within households through contact with contaminated fabrics, such as bedding, towels and eating utensils. As a result, while the risk of monkeypox spreading in classrooms and workplaces is low, people in shared housing situations should follow the specific guidance for these settings.

  • Prevention: Effective monkeypox vaccines are available, including through UW Medicine. Due to limited supplies, these vaccines are currently prioritized for individuals at greatest risk. There is also a drug called TPOXX that may be used to treat monkeypox.

  • Reporting: While most individuals in the UW community are not required to report a monkeypox infection, notify of a confirmed or suspected monkeypox infection:

    • If you are a student living in a University residence hall, or
    • If you have an exposure or develop infection due to University workplace or instructional activities, or at a University setting can also answer questions from University community members about both monkeypox and COVID-19.

We are all excited about the return to community that the start of each academic year brings. By taking the steps listed above, we can all help make that return healthy and joyful for ourselves and everyone in our community. Thank you for all that you’ve done and that you continue to do to foster a culture of health and wellness at the University of Washington.


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