aerial view of Willamette University campus in autumn

Return to Campus Plan

Campus Reopening and COVID-19 Measures

Willamette University will welcome students back to campus for the 2020-21 fall semester in August. In the interest of reducing student travel to and from campus, fall break has been eliminated for this academic year. An overview of important dates for each school is listed below, and additional details are available on the Classes in Fall 2020 page.

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College of Arts & Sciences

  • Move-in for new students: Aug. 18-19
  • Opening Days: Aug. 19-21
  • Move-in for returning students: Aug. 22-23
  • First day of class: Aug. 24
  • Labor Day: Instructional Day
  • Last day of class: Nov. 24
  • Final exams begin: Dec. 2

Claremont School of Theology

  • Hybrid classes begin: Aug. 24
  • In-person classes begin: Sept. 1

College of Law

  • First-year student orientation: Aug. 17-19
  • First day of class: Aug. 24
  • Labor Day: No classes

Atkinson Graduate School of Management

  • International student orientation: Aug. 14
  • Compass Week orientation: Aug. 17-21
  • First day of class: Aug. 24
  • MBA-P fall semester begins: Aug. 31
  • Labor Day: No classes

In conjunction with reopening and the start of face-to-face instruction, Willamette University will implement a comprehensive plan to address the health and safety of all members of the campus community. This will include social distancing, mask requirements, and enhanced cleaning of all campus spaces, as well as contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation protocols in conjunction with Marion County Public Health. These and other measures will continue through the semester and as long as necessary.

Willamette campus will remain closed to the public through July, and those employees who can work at home will continue to be required to do so until August 1.

More Information

Frequently Asked Questions


A Reopening Operations Committee has been established and meets twice a week to thoroughly review updated health guidance, establish policy and plans to enact this guidance, and determine effective strategies for promoting the health of the community and the educational mission. In addition, numerous work groups have been created to take the lead on identifying issues within specific areas of the campus and recommend solutions. While we know that public health guidance changes as we learn more about the virus, each department has submitted a plan for staffing and operating that is aligned with CDC and OHA guidance. Some specific examples are as follows:


  • Requiring that every community member watches a video that outlines best practices for reducing the spread of COVID
  • Established a WU Well U Agreement that all members of the Willamette community will be required to sign that outlines an understanding of policies/guidelines designed to reduce the spread of COVID. They include:
    • Wearing a face covering at all times in public campus spaces, both indoors and outdoors
    • Washing hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer
    • Conducting a daily COVID symptoms check. If individual has a fever greater than 100° F, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell they are instructed to contact their health care provider and stay home/in their residence hall room
    • Avoiding crowds or gatherings where social distancing is not possible
    • Staying informed about community health news through university e-mail and website
    • Maintaining 6 feet of social distance from others where possible
    • Observing posted room capacity in all Willamette University spaces
    • Following the “No Campus Guests Policy” for all events, activities, meetings, and gatherings
    • Isolating in residence hall room or home for 10 days, even if asymptomatic, if having had more than 15 minutes of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and contacting their health care provider
    • Reporting any potential exposure to COVID-19 to the University (students report to Student Affairs,; faculty or staff report to HR) and seeking medical evaluation
    • Following all university/health guidance, and responding to OHA contact tracing calls


  • Classroom capacities have been reduced to ensure at least 36 square feet of space for each individual (and at least 6 feet of separation between individuals).
  • No class will be more than 50 people, and the vast majority will be fewer than 25 people
  • Professors will maintain physical distance while teaching.


  • Regulated flow into cafe
  • Increased sanitation efforts - ‘sanitation ambassadors’
  • Eliminated self-serve stations (no salad bar or beverage station)
  • Outdoor tent for extra seating
  • Floor markings inside to indicate the 6ft distancing
  • Staff wear masks and gloves
  • Mandated COVID training for all staff
  • Staff will have pre-shift wellness and temperature checks


  • Reduced density of rooms to doubles and singles
  • Spread out and scheduled move in times, including “drop and go” opportunities for local students
  • Reconfigured common spaces to maximize physical distancing
  • Dedicated isolation residential spaces if needed


  • A number of physical mitigation strategies have been implemented across campus, including the use of plexi-glass barriers in high traffic and interaction areas.
  • Increased hand sanitizing stations
  • Public health signage prominently displayed across campus
  • Regular and enhanced cleaning procedures per the CDC guidelines.

Students with disabilities or health conditions who cannot wear a mask or face covering should request accommodations through Accessible Education Services.

Employees with disabilities or health conditions who cannot wear a mask or face covering should request accommodations through Human Resources.

It depends. There are two ways that Willamette University may learn that a person learning or working on campus has tested positive for COVID-19.

Notice from Local Health Authority:

Once the Local Health Authority is made aware of a positive COVID-19 test, they will begin their investigation and contact tracing process. The Local Health Authority will notify Willamette that a student, staff, or faculty has tested positive for COVID-19 if the person who tested positive had “close contact” with a member of our community on campus. (As a reminder, close contact is contact that is within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes.) If Willamette is notified of a confirmed positive case on campus, we will quickly and broadly message this information to the community while also protecting the privacy of the impacted individual. If however, the county is satisfied that they have identified all “close contacts” through their investigation or determines that there were no “close contacts” with members of the Willamette community on campus, Willamette University will likely not be informed of the confirmed positive case by the Local Health Authority.

Notice from a Faculty, Staff, or Student Who Tested Positive:

Students, faculty, and staff should notify the university of a positive COVID-19 test by contacting Tori Ruiz in Student Affairs for students and Danita Chapin in Human Resources for faculty and staff. When Willamette learns of a positive case from a faculty, staff, or student who has tested positive, Willamette will notify the Local Health Authority and quickly and broadly message that there has been a positive COVID-19 test to the community while also protecting the privacy of the impacted individual. Contact tracing will still be conducted by the Local Health Authority. The Local Health Authority will be in touch with any student, staff, or faculty in “close contact” with the person who had the positive COVID-19 case.

As set forth above, even if a Willamette community member tests positive for COVID-19, the University may not learn of the positive test if the person did not have “close contact” with anyone on campus and the person does not inform the university. Also, it is important to note that Bishop Wellness Center cannot provide patient information to the university. As such, Bishop Wellness Center will notify the Local Health Authority of a positive COVID-19 case, but will not notify the university.

We will approach compliance proactively by providing education on the guidelines, a required training video and agreement, role modeling appropriate behaviors, and compassion for the challenge this has caused for our social interactions. We will respond to students as is appropriate for the behavior as we would any policy violation. We address the behavior that has been reported, we talk to the parties involved, and we consider context, motivation, prior behavior, and seriousness of the behavior to determine the appropriate response/intervention.

We will take our guidance from the Oregon Health Authority and CDC and determine if the actions being asked of us to mitigate the impact of the virus are reasonable for us to manage. We analyze the balance between the ability to maintain the health of the community while also maintaining a worthwhile educational experience for students. Our COVID response team assesses the Oregon and campus context on a regular basis.

Testing & Contact Tracing

The CDC provides good information on how to take care of yourself if you start to feel sick. Most importantly, stay home if you are sick to prevent getting others ill. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Call your healthcare provider (which may include Bishop Wellness Center at 503-370-6062 if you are a student) if you have any emergency symptoms including shortness of breath, pain in your chest, difficulty staying awake. Monitor your symptoms and follow all instructions from your healthcare provider. We will work with you to isolate or quarantine as needed.

Access to COVID testing in Oregon continues to vary in response to growing demand nationally and regionally. Bishop Wellness Center has contracted with Quest Labs and will be a testing resource for students who are ill with symptoms of COVID-19 this academic year. However, like all tests processed by commercial labs in the U.S., the time to get results remains variable in response to overall demand; and at times can be up to a week or more. Given these limitations, the Oregon Health Authority published a helpful Testing Site Finder to identify other local testing sites for students, faculty, and staff looking for additional options.

Anyone testing positive is asked to report their status to Student Affairs (if a student) or HR (if an employee). These representatives will report this to the local county health department; Marion County for students in Salem. The county health department will contact you to identify any "close contacts" (defined as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before the onset of symptoms) and will begin to notify them. Willamette will send a non-identifying message to the community alerting them to a positive case and will initiate the established CDC cleaning protocols. Due to privacy laws in place, county health department contact tracers and Willamette University are not able to provide identifying information about the person with the confirmed case.


Any student with a confirmed positive COVID test should contact Tori Ruiz, in the Office of Student Affairs. Students who test positive for COVID will be asked to isolate at their permanent home residence if possible (i.e., travel by car, home environment is one where they can isolate and not compromise the health of others in their home).

On-campus resident: If a residential student tests positive, they will be asked to isolate in a designated residence hall until they are recovered. Willamette will assure students are supported with food delivery, regular follow-up from our professional staff, and help navigating the transition to remote learning while ill.

Off-campus resident: Students living off campus who test positive will be asked to isolate per CDC guidelines in their residence, if possible. On-campus housing for short-term isolation may be available for students living off campus if home isolation is not possible.


Any Employee with a confirmed case of COVID-19 should contact Human Resources at 503-370-6210. Employees who test positive should isolate at home until recovered.

There are a few reasons. Mostly, we want to make sure you get the support you need. If you are a student, we can arrange isolation spaces, help with moving rooms, getting meals to you, and help you navigate the transition to remote learning while you recover.

We also want to make sure we follow CDC guidelines and clean the spaces you may have occupied and ensure that protocols for identifying known “close contacts” are in place to reduce the likelihood that others will get the virus.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying and calling people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 because of close contact with a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 for guidance and support. It’s a key tool for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The Oregon Health Authority and local public health authorities use contact tracing to prevent the spread of diseases like measles and COVID-19. Contact tracers help you stay healthy and slow the spread of COVID-19 by: Talking with you about how to prevent the spread of the virus, including staying home or at a location provided by a public health authority until the danger has passed (this is known as “quarantining”), providing health information on how to care for yourself and others if you start having symptoms, and sharing resources available in your community that can support you while you quarantine.

The CDC and the Oregon Health Authority define close contact as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before the onset of symptoms.

Anyone who has been in “close contact” (<6' for more than 15 minutes) with a person with COVID should expect a call from the local county health authority. It is important that you answer this call and follow any directions you're given. Due to privacy laws, you will not receive any identifying information about the person testing positive.

Privacy laws require that local public health authorities and Willamette University do not share any identifying information about a person who has tested positive. However, people identified through the county's contact tracing program as “close contacts” will receive a call from the local public health department. It is very important to answer this call and follow all directions. Willamette will broadly notify our community of positive cases and initiate our enhanced cleaning protocols when we are made aware of a positive case.

Although testing is an important tool in the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19, the current public health guidance does not support broad testing of asymptomatic people upon arrival. Specifically, the CDC recently indicated that it does not recommend entry testing of all returning students, faculty, and staff.

Also, the American College Health Association and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) took similar positions. The State of Oregon Deputy state epidemiologist recently published the following update to their guidance for Oregon colleges and universities:

“Testing people without COVID-19 symptoms is generally not useful because the sensitivity of viral testing in asymptomatic people is very low. In fact, a recent review in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that, in people who actually had the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, viral testing had a 100% false negative rate on the day after exposure, and at best a 67% false negative rate on the day prior to symptom onset. Therefore, a negative result does not meaningfully increase confidence that a person is not infected. And just as importantly, a negative result does not mean that a person has any period of protection when they are not or cannot be infected. Testing of asymptomatic people would result in many more false negatives than true positives, and we have serious concerns about the interpretation of a negative result which may provide unfounded reassurance to individuals and institutions.”

“Regarding moving in to a residence hall, any student or staff member who is ill with COVID-19 symptoms should seek testing and be self-isolating if positive, according to guidance from their local public health authority. Any asymptomatic student or staff member who has had close contact with a person who had COVID-19 should be on a 14-day self-quarantine. In neither case should the student or staff member move in to a residence hall until they complete their isolation/quarantine.”

In addition to the public health messaging that will be prominent in all communications to students this fall, we are ready to provide testing of symptomatic students and have plans for isolation of anyone that tests positive and quarantine for those with known close contact.

The following response is from Tom Jeanne, MD, deputy state epidemiologist:

“This is a complicated issue with a lot of nuance, indeed. We currently have adequate testing capacity but certainly not enough to recommend testing of asymptomatic people in general, and particularly those who are lower risk. We need to be mindful of our testing resources, especially with cases on the rise in Oregon. Only in higher risk settings (e.g. nursing homes) are we recommending testing of asymptomatic residents and staff, and even then testing is primarily done when there is a known outbreak going on. The number of true cases identified by screening asymptomatic people who haven’t had known contact with a person with COVID-19 is expected to be very low, and in fact there may be some false positives as well, even with a very specific test like PCR tends to be. So considering all the factors, we don’t recommend asymptomatic testing for screening, including for return to work or school. Our current guidance rests on our understanding of the literature on testing asymptomatic people and what the results show. It’s not proven to be a reliable indicator of not being infected. As such, we’d rather focus on actions the higher education community can take to keep students, staff, and the community safe while the virus continues to circulate. The proven methods are physical distancing, hand hygiene, face coverings, disinfecting, and isolating/quarantining cases and their contacts. Of course as the situation changes, we’ll keep our guidance updated.”

According to the World Health Organization, “Temperature screening alone, at exit or entry, is not an effective way to stop international spread, since infected individuals may be in incubation period, may not express apparent symptoms early on in the course of the disease....” We are therefore asking all community members to diligently self-monitor their symptoms daily and to stay home if they have any symptoms of illness, including fever. Some departments on campus like Bishop Wellness Center will be taking temperatures as part of a more comprehensive screening effort for those seeking medical care.

Travel & Off-Campus Activities

We will discourage students from traveling outside the Willamette valley but we are not in a position to regulate where students travel. We will educate on safety practices, and encourage support from peers. Each person will need to make a personal, informed choice about how they will move about in this COVID world. We will regulate room capacity, access to buildings and offices, and address behavior that we see but we cannot control all aspects of students' lives. We are mitigating risk but we cannot promise complete safety from the virus, no one can unless you completely isolate in your house with no outside contact.

The Oregon Health Authority has mandated that all residents maintain 6 feet of physical distance and wear a face covering in public spaces indoors and outdoors, and we ask all members of the Willamette community to comply with OHA guidelines. We will approach compliance proactively by providing education on the guidelines, a required training video and agreement, role modeling appropriate behaviors, and compassion for the challenge this has caused for our social interactions. We do not have the means to regulate off-campus students but will follow up with students who have been reported to violate the student code of conduct that may be reported as we would any other concern.

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