Novel coronavirus information

September 28, 2023

Protecting yourself against COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses (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,

Welcome to a new academic year at the University of Washington! As we begin autumn quarter, I’m writing on behalf of the UW’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases to share steps we can all take to protect against COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

Over the past several weeks, we have seen an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases in our region and the United States. With the return of greater numbers of students, personnel and visitors this fall, we expect to see an increase in cases on our campuses. Fall and winter are also times when we see greater spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses in general, such as influenza and RSV.

Here are some simple steps that we can each take that will benefit our health and the health of our community:

  • Stay home from class or work if you are sick, including with respiratory or COVID-19 symptoms, and follow the UW COVID-19 public health flowchart.
  • Stay up to date on recommended vaccines. This includes the updated COVID-19 vaccines and your annual flu shot. If you are at risk, talk to your health care provider about the new RSV vaccines. The UW will be offering COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots for students and personnel. Information about the vaccine clinics can be found on the COVID-19 vaccination webpage. Vaccines are also available at UW Medicine and local clinics and pharmacies.
  • Take a COVID-19 test if you have symptoms or have been exposed. Rapid tests are available for free on UW campuses, and can be ordered at no cost through a federal government program. Both rapid and PCR tests are also available locally.
  • Face masks are currently optional in most settings. Consider wearing one indoors if you are at higher risk, especially for the first couple weeks of the quarter. High-quality masks (e.g., N95, K95, surgical masks) help protect the wearer and others and these masks continue to be available for free in specified locations on each UW campus.
  • Masks are currently required in higher risk patient care settings. UW health-care facilities will return to required masking in all patient care settings based on respiratory virus transmission (COVID-19, flu and RSV) metrics. Please follow the mask signs posted upon entry to clinics.
  • Masks are strongly recommended when returning to campus after ending COVID-19 isolation and after a higher risk COVID-19 exposure. In these cases, wear a mask indoors when around others until 10 days have passed from the start of illness or until 10 days have passed from when you were exposed.
  • You can expect to see more people masking indoors during fall and winter months. Please continue to respect the masking choices of others.
  • Practice good hygiene, washing your hands often and avoiding touching your face.

More information about the University’s response is available at and the Environmental Health and Safety Department’s website.

By taking the easy steps listed above, we can return to our campuses and help make the start of the school year 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