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Operational Guidance for UW Youth Programs During COVID-19

Updated August 3, 2022

The following guidance aligns with University of Washington and Washington State Department of Health guidance specific to youth engagements. This guidance is intended to serve as the primary reference for both University operated and hosted (i.e., third party led) youth programs.

Please note that guidance may change at any time so please check back for further updates.

The University requires any in-person youth engagements (i.e., activities, events or programs) to follow COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools, child care, youth development and day camps outlined by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) in the Requirements and Guidance to Mitigate COVID-19 Transmission in K-12 Schools, Child Care, Early Learning, Youth Development and Day Camps. Note that some measures are required, and some may be recommended but shall not be required by individual programs. Read the entire set of required and recommended guidance fully before operating your program.

Public Health – Seattle & King County has created a tool for child care and early learning providers summarizing WA State requirements and PHSKC recommendations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in programs. This may be helpful for programs interpreting and implementing the DOH requirements.

Fact Sheet for Families

This document is intended for parents, families and youth who are participating in your programming. If you wish to amend this document or include additional guidance specific to your youth program, please send a copy of your updated version to before publishing.

Fact Sheet for Families [PDF]

The Office of the Youth Protection Coordinator has created a training on these COVID protocols:

REQUIRED in youth settings

REQUIRED in youth settings

Please see the DOH guidance for details about these requirements. Where University-specific requirements exist in addition to those from DOH, they are noted below:

The UW still requires all UW personnel and students to be vaccinated. This also applies to volunteers, vendors, and contractors working on-site at UW facilities, though the mechanism of verifying vaccination status differs for these populations. See UW HR’s guidance for more information.

Youth programs must convey to parents/families, youth and staff the responsibility to screen for symptoms at home and remain at home should any symptoms arise.

Youth programs must monitor for symptoms that arise during program time and take appropriate actions as outlined by DOH (p. 3) when this occurs.

If an individual in your program tests positive for COVID-19, you must report to the appropriate public health jurisdiction. Please take these steps even if the individual has already reported to public health themselves, since you, as program director, may have a role to play in notifying others of their potential exposure.

  1. Report employee casesto the UW COVID-19 Response and Prevention Team at or (206) 616-3344.
  2. Report youth participant casesto
  1. Communicate to staff and families if and how guided to do so by public health. See directly below for guidance. Do not disclose any personal identifiers. 
  2. Report all instances to OYPC at or by calling (206) 616-5706.

If a staff person, visitor or participant in your program reports symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, families and participants must be notified as soon as possible. Details of notification requirements can be found in the DOH requirements (p. 4). Note that youth who are  immunocompromised, medically fragile, or otherwise at high risk for severe COVID-19 must be notified of any potential exposures to COVID-19. You may use the templates provided by DOH below to notify parents/guardians:

Do not disclose any personal identifiers. 

If a staff person reports symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, follow EH&S guidance for notifying other staff in your program or in the immediate vicinity (e.g., same building or work space). Do not disclose any personal identifiers. 

  • Programs may choose to follow exclusion protocols outlined by EH&S or that outlined by DOH. The major difference is that EH&S still differentiates exclusions based on vaccination status, while DOH guidance no longer makes such a distinction.
  • UW personnel must follow UW EH&S  protocols.

Follow public health and EH&S guidance in all instances of COVID-19 clusters or outbreaks in your program community.

  • UW led youth programs: Register your youth program event(s) in the Youth Program Registration System (YPRS) prior to its start date. As part of your registration in YPRS, you will be asked to certify that you will implement all required youth-specific COVID prevention protocols outlined in the DOH Guidance for Child Care and Youth Programs
  • Third Party led youth programs hosted by UW: The UW hosting entity must register the youth program and include COVID-19 requirements outlined above in third party facility use agreements.

REQUIRED for overnight youth programs

In addition to following the above requirements, overnight programs must require youth participants to undergo screening testing prior to participating. See WA DOH Interim SARS-CoV-2 Self-Testing Guidance for K12 Schools and Child Care Providers.

Testing resources include:

RECOMMENDED in youth settings

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Youth programs may not require youth participants to wear masks, except in certain circumstances (below). This aligns with the University of Washington’s masking policy, as well as county and state guidance

Youth programs may actively encourage participants to wear masks, especially in indoor settings and with groups of unvaccinated children, e.g., children between age 2-4, when participants are in close contact with each other, or for those who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19  or who may live with individuals at increased risk.  However, programs must honor individual and family choices regarding mask wearing.

In the below circumstances (and only these circumstances), masks are required:

  • during clusters or outbreaks of COVID-19 and based on advice of the UW COVID-19 Response and Prevention Team and/or county public health department;
  • healthcare settings, including nurse’s offices;
  • individuals showing or reporting symptoms of COVID-19 while in the program environment must wear a mask while waiting to leave the program or facility; and
  • individuals returning from isolation following a positive case of COVID-19 must wear a mask on days 6-10 if they are not able to show evidence of a negative test after day 5.

Yes! Use of a face covering is an important prevention step for reducing transmission. While youth programs cannot require face coverings, they can strongly encourage mask use in any communications with parents and guardians, and can actively encourage youth to wear them within the program. Youth programs may also assist youth with proper mask use, and suggest adjustments when they are not covering their face and mouth.

The University must honor a youth’s choice to either wear a mask or not. Exceptions to this would include when the youth is in a setting that requires masking, e.g., a health facility or field trip location where masking is required, or if a youth is showing symptoms of COVID-19. In all of these cases the program may enforce the requirements with all staff and participants. 

That is correct: youth programs may no longer require youth to be vaccinated in order to participate in programming. Programs should not collect information about youth participants’ vaccination status.

You will need to communicate the expectations to your participants. Be clear that the requirement is one of the specific host facility, rather than a general UW requirement. Ideally the host facility will handle verification of vaccination so your program does not need to collect or view this sensitive personal health information. If you must verify vaccination status, contact EH&S to ensure you are doing this properly.

Only in specific circumstances that pose a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission:

  • close contact indoor sports (e.g., basketball, wrestling, water polo, indoor cheer)
  • indoor performing arts settings, including theater/drama, choir, band, speech and debate
  • overnight programs or those including shared accommodations.

The Office of the Youth Protection Coordinator and EH&S can provide recommendations on frequency of testing in these situations.

Outside of these circumstances, programs should not impose a testing requirement for youth participants. 

If a program requires youth to attend at an off-campus site for an activity that requires proof of vaccination, youth programs may pass along that requirement.

When collecting information from youth participants, it’s important to remember to not collect the information yourself and to use existing systems established at the intended location to collect vaccination information.

Additionally, programs must make it clear to parents and/or guardians why there will be a vaccine requirement and that there is a testing alternative to allow your youth to participate.

Summary of requirements and recommendations

Required in all UW youth settings 
  1. Employee COVID vaccination 
  2. Communication to parents/families, youth and staff the responsibility to screen for symptoms at home and remain at home should any symptoms arise. 
  3. Exclusion of individuals with symptoms of COVID-19
  4. At-home isolation protocol & return planning
  5. Monitoring of symptoms that arise during program time and isolate COVID-19 cases within a facility
  6. Notification to groups or individuals of potential exposure
  7. Education about access to diagnostic testing for COVID-19
  8. Reporting of cases and outbreaks to EH&S, Public Health and OYPC
  9. Response to clusters and outbreaks in consultation with your local health authority
  10. Registration of all activities with the Office of the Youth Protection Coordinator

Additionally required for overnight programs:

11. Requirement of youth participants to undergo screening testing prior to participating

Recommended and can be implemented at program level 
  1. Increased ventilation 
  2. Physical distancing 
  3. Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
  4. Increased cleaning and disinfection
  5. Masking in indoor child care settings
  6. Screening testing for high contact and indoor sports, indoor performing arts settings
Recommended for individuals but shall not be required by a program 
  1. Vaccination of eligible youth participants
    • Exceptions: venue-based decisions, large-scale one-time events as determined by EH&S
  2. Masks
    • Masks may be recommended but cannot be required by youth programs.
    • Youth programs must honor the individual choices of families about mask use preferences (i.e., whether to wear one or not)
    • Note: Masks may become required in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak, based on consultation with EH&S and/or a local health authority
  3. Screening testing
    • Note: screening testing is required in certain programs. See above.
  4. Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
  5. Increased cleaning and disinfection