Novel coronavirus information

December 8, 2022

Preparing for a healthy winter break (Message to the UW community)

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

Dear UW community,

As we approach the winter break, I’m writing on behalf of the UW’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases to update you on current public health conditions and to share steps you can take to stay healthy in the face of the several respiratory viral illnesses that are circulating in our community. This will help protect your health and the health of our entire community and put us in good position for the start of an in-person winter quarter next month.

We are now into cold and flu season, and while COVID-19 community levels remain relatively low at the UW and in the Puget Sound region, we are seeing high levels of influenza. RSV and other cold viruses are also circulating. This combination of illnesses is straining health-care providers, hospitals and resources here and around the country.

Holiday gatherings and travel have the potential to spread these illnesses further, which is why everyone is encouraged to take the following steps during the break:

  • Avoiding gatherings, work or travel if you have symptoms of an infectious illness. The UW COVID-19 Public Health Flowchart indicates what you should do if you test positive for COVID-19, have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms.
  • Getting boosted with the updated COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccines are available at clinics and pharmacies, as well as through UW Medicine and local health agencies. Getting boosted now will help improve your immunity in time for the holidays.
  • Getting your annual flu shot. As I mentioned, we are seeing high levels of influenza here and around the United States. Like the COVID-19 vaccines, it takes a couple of weeks for the immunity provided by a flu shot to be fully effective.
  • Wearing a high-quality mask in indoor public spaces and while traveling. Masks will also be strongly recommended the first two weeks of winter quarter. High-quality masks help protect the wearer and others from a range of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19 and influenza, and they continue to be available for free in locations on each UW campus. Units can purchase masks in bulk from the Clean and Safe Storefront.
  • Taking a coronavirus test if you have symptoms or have been exposed, before and after travel — including to campus for the start of the winter quarter — and before attending large indoor gatherings. PCR and rapid tests are widely available in our area, including for free on UW campuses. The Husky Coronavirus Testing voluntary research study is also available for UW students and personnel.
  • Activating WA Notify on your phone in order to receive exposure notifications and so that you can anonymously let others know of their exposure if you test positive.
  • Practicing good hygiene. Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.

I hope you have a successful end to the quarter and a relaxing and joyous winter break.

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