Recent Updates

In an ongoing effort to keep the community informed, the Reopening Operations Committee is committed to offering a state-wide, regional, and campus public health update to our community every Friday.

Reopening Operations Committee Update

The ROC meets each day, Monday - Friday, to review campus event proposals for COVID policy compliance, discuss new health guidance and research, and review campus issues and questions. Examples of topics discussed this week included:

  • Communication strategies
  • Planning for Spring semester
  • Planning for a campus forum with the ROC in October
  • Athletics practice travel protocol
  • Follow up on positive case
  • Continued monitoring of regional testing capacity and guidance

Regional and State-Wide Public Health Update

The Oregon Health Authority posts a comprehensive Weekly Update every Wednesday. The most current edition can be found here. The overall state-wide positive rate increased to 6.2% from 5.6% after several weeks of slow decline. The age group with the highest infection rate continues to be 20–29-year-olds.

Marion County’s COVID website can be found here. Their data dashboard indicates an overall positivity rate of 8.6%. Multnomah County’s COVID Website can be found here. Their data dashboard indicted an overall positivity rate of 3.9%.

Campus Health Updates

As noted on our main COVID page, Willamette has learned of a total of 9 cases of COVID-19 that intersected our community since the start of the pandemic in February. The most recent case was reported on 9/23/20. Based on campus feedback, we have adjusted the tracker to indicate if a case is a student, employee or contractor/other.

On Monday 9/21, we clarified the CDC testing guidance and how campus is notified of a positive COVID case in a Today at Willamette article.

We have also received some inquiries about our comparatively low case rate on campus. We can assure you that we are swiftly and broadly reporting every positive case when we become aware of it, and update the case tracker on our website accordingly. We are fortunately experiencing a very low case count on campus. We attribute this success largely to the focused efforts and diligence of our campus community. Thank you!

We regularly receive questions about why we are not mass testing asymptomatic people. As has been shared, we are following the most current public health guidance from the Oregon Health Authority regarding testing that specifically recommends against broad testing of asymptomatic people. Specifically, review #s 11 and 12 on the FAQ's that address this. Here is a relevant excerpt:

We are focused “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.”

Community Compliance Updates

We have a few students who have not “signed” the Well U Agreement or watched the COVID-19 education module on WISE. Students who have not completed these tasks will have a hold on their account that will delay spring registration.

A few reminders:

  • Residence Hall, University Center, and many other campus elevators have a capacity of 1 person. Please confirm the capacity signs prior to entering with others.
  • If you are on campus, in a public space (e.g., classrooms, lounges) you need to wear a mask, even if you are alone.
  • Eating on campus is only allowed outside, in private residences or offices, in Goudy/Goudy tent, or in spaces specifically set aside in the graduate schools.

We have received a report that there was a gathering at the fountain with a larger group of students, without masks or distancing. We are investigating this event and if we can determine who participated there will be disciplinary action taken.

Reopening Forums

Now that we are approaching a mid-point in the semester, we are planning to host online forums to provide updates from the Reopening Operations Committee and to answer questions from the Willamette community. Please stay tuned for dates and details.

We are grateful for the entire community’s commitment to complying with the COVID-19 mitigation strategies. As you can see by our relatively low case counts, they are paying off and we thank you for your continued efforts.

Good afternoon supervisors and managers,

Thank you for all you are doing in this unprecedented time to support your colleagues and students.

We recognize that we have shared a lot of information regarding Willamette’s COVID-19 response since the start of the semester. It is important that supervisors and managers are aware of the latest messaging and resources available to our community, so we wanted to consolidate some key takeaways for you. Some of what follows may be reminders, while other items may be new information. Please share and review these updates with your teams at your next staff meeting.
COVID-19 Health and Safety Policy
The university’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Policy is in place and it is important to be familiar with this policy. Here are some highlights:
It is managers' responsibility to make adjustments in their work areas to allow for masks and 6 ft. of distance at all times during the course of a shift.
Masks are required at all times. Please do not use vented masks or neck gaiters, and please do not pull your mask down to speak.
Eating/drinking is allowed only outside or in designated spaces, and people must maintain 6' of distance. No gatherings with shared food are allowed.
Managers should encourage employeess to stay home if they have symptoms of illness.
On-Line COVID Related Reporting Forms
We have a number of COVID-related reporting forms available online. All forms are linked on the university’s main COVID page:
COVID positive status for students to report positive tests to Student Affairs
COVID positive status for employees to report positive tests to Human Resources.
Well WU Policy Violation Reporting Form can be used to report concerns pertaining to individual violations of the Well U Agreement.
Protecting Health Information
Employees who become aware that a colleague or student has a COVID-19 diagnosis must not share any identifiable information with others, including students, even if you think you are acting in the best interest of the community. Any employee or student who needs to isolate or quarantine will be made aware by their health provider, the county health department, or Willamette University HR or Student Affairs offices.
Sick Leave Policy for Isolation and Quarantine
We have communicated to all employees that they should stay home if they feel at all ill. Employees may express concern about being paid if they need to isolate or quarantine for an extended period of time. Willamette has a progressive sick leave policy that can be found here. In addition, if an employee is required to quarantine or isolate and their sick leave has been depleted, Willamette University will continue to pay them for up to two weeks. Our desire is that no one feel pressured to return to work if they are symptomatic, have had close contact, or have tested positive.
Recent Campus Updates
We have sent a number of recent communications to students and the community that are worth reviewing so you know what information we are sharing. All campus communications are summarized and posted in the “Recent Updates” section of the main COVID page.

Thank you very much for helping us ensure accurate information is shared broadly and in a timely manner. Also, in times of high-stress, the rumor mill works overtime so it is important to try to manage it before things get out of control. If you hear reports of positive cases that have not been confirmed by the Reopening Operations Committee or other self-reports around symptoms or quarantine needs, please advise people to speak with HR or Student Affairs with their concerns.

Sincerely,
Willamette’s Reopening Operations Committee

We have been heartbroken to see the rapidly-expanding wildfires in the mountains east of Salem, which have damaged and threatened the communities of the Santiam Canyon. More than a dozen Willamette employees live in areas under evacuation watches or warnings, and many more of us have friends and relatives whose lives have been disrupted. Our thoughts are with them.

Smoke from the wildfires has created air quality concerns across the state, including in Salem. Willamette’s campus is far from the fires and not in danger, but because of the deteriorating air quality we have decided to switch to remote instruction for all classes today (Wednesday, Sept. 9).

Supervisors are encouraged to be flexible in allowing employees to work remotely and to reach out to Human Resources with any questions.

Please take care to protect yourselves from the health hazards associated with smoky air. You can check the Air Quality Index in your area at the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website. This website includes a search box to check air quality by zip code, as well as maps identifying what protective actions are advised.

Among the recommendations are:

  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activity.
  • Keep windows and doors closed to reduce the smoke that enters your room or home.
  • If you have an HVAC system with a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculate mode, or close the outdoor intake damper.

More information, including recommendations for people with health conditions can be found in the DEQ’s “A Guide to Air Quality and Your Health”.

Stay safe, Bearcats.

President Steve Thorsett

Dear Willamette community,

As President Thorsett just shared, we have reached out to the students who we were made aware were involved in yesterday’s protest by the Proud Boys, a far-right organization that admits only men and whose mission is to spread an “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt” agenda. They have been known to promote and engage in political violence and have been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. If you or anyone you know was harmed in this event, please let us know so that we can offer resources and support. We did not have advance notice of these events. Had we known we would have notified the community and shared precautionary information, as we understand the traumatic impact these groups and their hateful messages have on the members of our community and the safety risk they presented. If at any time you are concerned about activity on campus by these or other groups please contact Campus Safety at (503) 370-6911.

As our nation continues to reckon with systemic racism and grieves the tragic and senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Daniel Prude and countless others, we anticipate that demonstrations, rallies, and protests will likely increase--particularly against the backdrop of the coming election. Our mission calls us to face these atrocities with appropriate action, authentic commitment, and the courage to stand for what is right. Our close location to the State Capitol provides our community with the benefits and challenges of witnessing and participating in the democratic freedoms of free speech and political assembly. The call to engage in social change efforts is complicated by the compounding impact of COVID and the presence of weapons and violent tactics known to be employed by some groups present at these events.

We offer the information below to support members of our community in making their own informed, personal decisions for how to engage in actions to support needed systemic changes.

Here are some tips for how to oppose white supremacists safely and effectively.

How to Protest Safely: What to Bring, What to Do, and What to Avoid - This Wired magazine article provides great suggestions but most importantly encourages potential protesters to know what it is you're fighting for. Do your own work. Study as much as possible—not only about the actions you're protesting but the context around them.

Protesting during COVID - It is important to remember that any large group gathering increases the risk of acquiring COVID-19. Individuals must make their own informed and personal decision to participate in such activities taking into account risks to themselves and their close contacts if they were to develop COVID-19. Tear gas leads to coughing, and increased respiratory droplets can increase the risk of transmission. Shouting and singing, which are common at protests, may also contribute to the spread of the virus.

We recognize and understand, however, that an individual’s desire to pursue social change, justice, and equity may be balanced with their concerns for COVID. We support those who choose to protest while making the effort to keep our communities protected from COVID-19.

Here are our recommendations:

If you are symptomatic or have recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19:

Do not participate in community protests if you feel ill, have active respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, fever (or other symptoms of COVID-19), or have recently been exposed to a close contact with confirmed COVID-19.

If you are asymptomatic and plan on joining the protest:

  • Wear a mask or facial covering that fully covers your nose and mouth.
  • Strongly consider wearing or having ready access to goggles or eye protection for added protection (avoid wearing contacts).
  • Bring hand sanitizer and use frequently.
  • Avoid sharing drinks, carrying other people’s signs, or touching objects that others have touched. Bring your own water, food, or other personal items.
  • Limit your group size and maintain 6 feet of physical distance whenever possible during the activity.
  • Avoid crowded activities that involve shouting or singing in close proximity to others and avoid those who are not wearing masks or face coverings.

After participating in local protests

Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after this activity. If you develop even mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19, do not go to work or in-person classes, self-isolate and call your doctor if you have questions about your symptoms.

If others who participated in the protests, such as household members, close contacts, or those who you had close contact with for more than 15 minutes in an enclosed space (e.g., a car) are diagnosed with COVID-19, or if you receive a call from a county contract tracer about a possible exposure, follow recommendations for self-isolation and call your doctor to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

It is important to respect individuals’ personal choices to engage or not engage in larger group activities and recognize that there are many ways to show support and engage in action. Here are additional resources for action:

Opportunities for actions other than (or in addition to) protest can be found here on the Americans of Conscience Checklist (developed and curated by Jen Hofmann, a former WU employee). You can donate money, drop off supplies, or contact local legislators.

However, as Pres. Thorsett noted, perhaps the most important action you can do to influence change is to VOTE. Consider organizing initiatives to register students and those who may be disenfranchised to register to vote. Here are two voting resources:

We are working with students, staff, and faculty to coordinate additional events in the coming weeks that offer opportunities for education and activism. If you are interested in helping to organize or want to contribute ideas please contact University Chaplain Karen Wood at kwood@willamette.edu who is leading the coordination of these efforts.

In Solidarity,

Lisa Landreman
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Jade Aguilar
Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Karen Wood
University Chaplain

Dear students,

We recognize these continue to be challenging times and want to commend so many of you who are doing your part to follow health guidelines and university policies. It seems that confusion remains about whether you need to distance while wearing a mask, if you can be within 6 feet of a partner or roommate while on campus, and questions about traveling off campus. We want to offer rationale and clarity to these COVID-19 health requirements.

What’s the big deal with maintaining 6 feet of distance if I’m wearing a mask?

As you’ve heard many times, COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets produced by coughing, laughing, speaking or sneezing. Research indicates that respiratory droplets do not travel more than 6 feet. This is why the 6 feet of distance — not just wearing masks — is so important. Research is also emerging that aerosols can be an important vector for transmission, and these travel even farther than 6 feet. Six feet is the basic minimum distance standard at this time.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, a report is made to Marion County. A county contact tracer will work with the person to determine with whom they have had close contact (this is defined as being within 6 feet of distance for 15 minutes or more). Any person who is identified as a close contact will be required to quarantine for 14 days to stop the spread of the virus, even if masks were worn. Even if you take a test and the results are negative, it can take 14 days for the virus to appear, therefore, requiring close contacts to remain quarantined for the full 14 days.

Although some people who test positive are asymptomatic, they can still transmit the virus. Virus transmission to others could have devastating consequences. Maintaining distance, not just wearing a mask, makes a significant difference. As we've acknowledged repeatedly, the coronavirus is present throughout the state including in the Salem community. With nearly three thousand students and employees, it is nearly inevitable that asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus will from time to time be present on our campus. Our goal is to limit, and hopefully prevent, transmission of the coronavirus between members of our community.

Intentionally overcautious

This is the rationale for our approach to reopening, which some may perceive as overly cautious. Our strictness is intentional — we want to ensure a high, not merely minimal, level of safety for our campus community.

This is why even in your living space whether it’s on or off campus, it is important to stay as far apart as you can from others and continue to practice good hygiene by washing hands frequently, sanitizing surfaces as often as possible and coughing into tissues or your elbow.

This is also why regardless of your relationship with others — roommates, partners, teammates and best friends — if you are on campus, indoors or out, you must wear a mask and remain at least 6 feet apart. Make it a habit.

Stay in the Salem area

We also suggest that you take this approach one step farther. Now that many of you have returned to campus, you are likely interacting with more people than you did in previous months. We strongly encourage those who are living in Salem (either on or off campus) to avoid traveling to your permanent home, visiting family, or leaving the area as much as possible. Why? Students who stay on campus or in the immediate vicinity and practice good mitigation strategies are much less likely to get the virus. Family and small group transmission is a growing concern. When visiting family or friends you could be bringing the virus with you. At home, people often feel comfortable and don’t wear masks or maintain distance, especially when visiting people who were in their “bubble” prior to coming to campus. You can protect your family and friends at home by limiting the time that you interact with them, particularly at larger gatherings. You can also protect your Willamette friends and colleagues by limiting the potential for the virus to enter the community as a result of interactions with off-campus contacts.

We do encourage you to maintain your social connections, even though it is a bit more challenging. Socialize outside as much as you can. Transmission outdoors when wearing masks and maintaining at least 6 feet of distance is the least likely scenario of concern. Small groups. And distance. Lots of distance.

Sincerely,

Reopening Operations Committee

Dear Willamette Community,

We have been notified of two positive cases of COVID-19 in our campus community. An employee working on campus tested positive on Friday, August 28, 2020, and has not been on campus since August 21. The employee was not in close contact (as defined by the CDC) with anyone in the Willamette community and is in self-isolation at home.

Another employee tested positive on Friday, August 28, 2020. The employee was last on campus on Thursday, August 27, 2020, and is in self-isolation at home. The university understands that this person did not have close contact with anyone in the Willamette community. Marion County Public Health will confirm if contact tracing is needed.

Please continue to be diligent in your personal health protection by practicing physical distancing and wearing masks, especially in public places where 6 feet of separation is not feasible.

As a reminder, faculty or staff who test positive for COVID-19 are asked to complete the COVID-19 Employee CARE Report form to notify Human Resources. Students who test positive are asked to complete the COVID-19 Student CARE Report form to notify the Office of Student Affairs.

Thank you,

Reopening Operations Committee

Dear Students,

We’d like to direct you to some important policies and resources for all students — undergraduate and graduate — as you begin the semester. 

First, what you may expect of Willamette University and, in turn, what the university expects of you can be found in the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities on the university's policies website within the online Student Handbook that contains the Code of Student Conduct and in your respective college or school’s catalog.

Please note that the Student Code of Conduct applies to all students whether residing on or off campus.

Second, in compliance with the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, you will find the Alcohol and Drug Abuse policy and resources located on the university's policies website. This policy includes campus and federal consequences for violations as well as resources. The Alcohol on Campus and at University Events policy is located in the Student Code of Conduct.

Third, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that prohibits sex and gender discrimination within higher education. The Not Alone website provides information and resources on the Sexual Misconduct Policy for Students.  As you may know, the Department of Education released new Title IX regulations of which we are required to comply. These regulations went into effect Aug. 14. Be assured that our perspective is to view compliance with the new regulations as a foundation for what’s expected. We will continue to apply best practices so that students are supported and our adjudication process remains equitable. Confidential advocates are available in the Gender Resource & Advocacy Center to provide support, resources and information about a variety of options for students who have experienced sexual misconduct. We understand that sexual misconduct is an issue in every community. We are committed to being at the forefront of institutions confronting this issue.

If you have questions or concerns about student responsibilities and expectations, or any of the information in the Student Handbook or university policies website, please contact the Office of Student Affairs at student-affairs-office@willamette.edu or 503-370-6447.

Here’s to a wonderful start of the new year,

Lisa Landreman, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Jade Aguilar, Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator

Dear Students,

I hope that the transition to classes has been going well. As I look out my window of the University Center, it warms my heart to see students adjusting to life 6 feet apart and wearing masks as they head to class and sitting by the Mill Stream. Now that we are in full operation, I have some important information and clarifications to ensure we can continue to offer an in-person campus experience.

The WU Well U Agreement is university policy 

As the agreement states, all Willamette community members’ presence and participation in university activities require adherence to these guidelines. Incidents of noncompliance can be documented and adjudicated through the conduct process. Blatant or repeated violations to the Well U Agreement could result in university sanctions that can include removal from housing, in-person instruction, and/or suspension from campus. Any member of the Willamette community can file an incident report for Well U Agreement violations using this form.

It’s on all of us

It is everyone’s responsibility — not just that of the faculty, staff, RAs or other student leaders — to follow and enforce the COVID health policies. We ask everyone to talk to friends, classmates, co-workers and peers about the Well U Agreement guidelines when you see a violation occurring. Be respectful and direct in your conversation. If the person has repeatedly violated policy or has engaged in a serious violation don’t hesitate to contact Campus Safety or the Office of Student Affairs for assistance. You can also file an incident report for Well U Agreement violations using this form.

Fans

Given the changing scientific understanding of the role improved air circulation plays in preventing COVID-19 transmission, we recommend that anyone who has guests in their private space (office, residence hall room, etc.) use open windows and a box fan to increase fresh-air exchange. Those seeking an even higher level of protection may tape a MERV13 filter to a second fan following these instructions. As fans become available we will put additional fans in common areas in residence halls. Restroom fans throughout campus and the residence halls are running 24/7.

Eating

Because masks are removed to eat, we must limit the locations where eating is allowed. 

Places students can eat:

  • Goudy/tent
  • Outside
  • In their private residence hall room
  • Designated  indoor spaces for law and MBA students 

Students cannot eat in classrooms or designated study spaces. It is even more crucial that 6 feet of distance be maintained when eating and masks put back on when eating is completed.

My sincere thank you to so many of you who are taking the safety of our community seriously and to those who have shared feedback and ideas for how to ensure our well-being. It is clear that Willamette is a place where people care about community, and for that, I am proud to be a Bearcat!

Be well,

Lisa

Dear Willamette Community,

We are writing to make you aware we have been notified that an individual working on campus tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, August 23. The individual lives off-campus and is in self-isolation at home, in accordance with CDC and local public health guidelines.

Marion County Public Health is coordinating contact tracing. Those in the Willamette community who may have come into close contact with this individual will be notified directly by Marion County and given further instructions. As a reminder, close contact is defined as anyone who was within 6-feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes.

With COVID-19 cases still present in our local community and state, we would like to remind you to continue to strengthen your personal health protection by practicing physical distancing, putting at least 6-feet between yourself and others, covering your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering, especially in public places where 6-feet of separation is not feasible.

Faculty or staff who test positive for COVID-19 are asked to notify Danita Chapin in Human Resources at dkchapin@willamette.edu. Students who test positive are asked to notify Tori Ruiz in Student Affairs at truiz@willamette.edu.

Thank you,

Reopening Operations Committee

Dear Willamette Community:

In accordance with CDC guidance, the WU Well U Agreement includes daily monitoring for possible COVID-19 symptoms. We have partnered with the #CampusClear App to make this tracking easier. The app is available via iOS, Android and a web interface.

The CampusClear app is an optional tool designed to assist with daily self-screening. The app is designed to help you make decisions about when to seek appropriate medical care. Although the system is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of disease or other conditions, including COVID-19, it helps direct users to appropriate resources if needed. When you use the app, your personal information is protected and is not shared with Willamette University.

Most importantly, stay home if you feel 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 students to isolate or quarantine as needed.

Sincerely,

Reopening Operations Committee

Dear Willamette Community:

It is exciting to see the campus come to life and we are grateful to everyone for following the guidelines in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As we prepare for a busy next couple of weeks, we wanted to share with you more specific guidance regarding face masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated their guidance regarding masks and recommends that people wear masks in public settings and when you are around people who don’t live in your household, especially when maintaining social distancing is not possible. 

Willamette has taken a cautious stance on facemasks in public places, more strict than the state of Oregon. Masks are required in all campus public spaces, even with people who live in the same residence hall room, building, apartment, or household. People may take their mask off in their private office, residence hall room, or while they are eating and maintaining 6 feet of distance.

The CDC and a recent study from Duke University have provided more specifics on high-performing, well-fitted masks.

Most effective masks

  1. Fitted N95 (with no exhalation valve) — These should be reserved for health care workers and emergency response personnel.
  2. Three-layer surgical mask
  3. Cotton-polypropylene-cotton mask
  4. Two-layer polypropylene mask
  5. Two-layer cotton, pleated-style mask

Least effective masks (Not allowed on campus)

  1. Neck gaiters
  2. Double-layer bandana
  3. Knitted mask
  4. Masks with exhalation vents or valves

Face shields

A face shield is primarily used for eye protection for the person wearing it. The CDC notes that because there is currently not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of face shields in controlling the spray of respiratory droplets, they do not currently recommend use of face shields as a substitute for masks. Requests for accommodations for the mask requirement can be directed to Accessible Education Services for students, and Human Resources for faculty and staff. They will work to identify the best accommodation option while still prioritizing community health standards.

How to fit your mask

Here is a video with general guidance for how to wear your mask safely.

  • Wash your hands before putting on your mask.
  • Your mask should seal against your face to prevent aerosols from releasing or entering through the sides. This video provides a powerful visual of the importance of a well-fitting cloth mask.

  • Your mask should cover your nose, mouth and chin.
  • Try to use a mask with a metal nose bridge that can bend to ensure a tight fit.
  • If you have a beard, groom it to remove the hair at the point where the mask seals against your face. 
  • Masks must be washed regularly with soap and water.

Wearing masks is an important strategy for reducing the spread of COVID-19. Maintaining social distancing, frequent handwashing and monitoring your daily health for symptoms are also important strategies that can help reduce the spread.

We thank you for continuing to do your part to create a culture of care — one in which we support the health, well-being and safety of all members of our community.

Sincerely,

Reopening Operations Committee

Dear Willamette students,

I hope this letter finds you safe and well. My name is Lisa Landreman. I use she/her/hers pronouns, and I am thrilled to introduce myself as the new vice president for student affairs and dean of students. Over the last few weeks, I have truly enjoyed learning about this beloved community and I hope to meet you in the coming months.

As we approach the final weeks of summer, we are excited to welcome you to a new academic year — whether you choose in-person or remote learning. University leaders continue to meet frequently on the evolving pandemic and its implications for our fall semester. We are prepared to offer students the best experience possible, either in person or remotely, but we can’t do it without your support. I want to share some expectations for our community that are designed to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on campus and ask for your assistance in protecting our community.

Before you arrive on campus

Enhanced physical distancing

As a reminder, all Willamette students who do decide to return to campus are strongly encouraged to engage in a 14-day period of quarantine (i.e. enhanced physical distancing) at home before arriving on campus, if you are able. It is an important part of our strategy to minimize risk and keep COVID-19 out of our community. 

Required training video and WU Well U Agreement

Soon you will be provided information to view an online video that serves as an overview of COVID-19: what it is, its symptoms, and best practices for staying safe. We have also created a WU Well U Agreement that requires all community members to indicate their understanding of the importance of and expectations for caring for ourselves, supporting one another, and engaging in behaviors that take the well-being of our community seriously in this current health crisis. 

Elements of the agreement include:

  • Monitoring for cough, trouble breathing, fever, or additional COVID-19 symptoms daily
  • Maintaining a physical distance from others (at least 6 feet)
  • Wearing a face covering when in public spaces on campus, indoors or outdoors; or while interacting with others outside of the home
  • Avoiding crowds and large gatherings
  • Following room occupancy limits and the no guest policy 
  • Seeking medical attention if you develop a fever, other symptoms, and/or test positive for COVID-19. 

More details on how to access the video and the agreement will be available soon.

If you are coming to campus

Willamette culture of care

The first weeks of the semester are high-risk for spreading COVID-19 in our community.  It is important to take this risk seriously by following the guidelines outlined in the WU Well U Agreement. Each behavior in the agreement serves as an important part of our approach to reducing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting everyone in the Willamette community. We encourage students attending classes in-person, especially those residing on campus, to limit your travel outside the Willamette Valley. Each person will need to make a personal, informed choice about how they will move about in this COVID world, understanding that your choices have implications for those around you, in addition to yourself.

Importance of wearing a mask

You have likely heard that COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice (e.g., while shouting, chanting, or singing). These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Unfortunately, studies show that a significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 lack symptoms (are “asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (are “pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.

Masks help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. Wearing a mask will help protect people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people. For these reasons, the protection of all members of our community, we require everyone to wear masks in any public spaces on campus, indoors or outdoors.

Mask recommendations

The CDC recommended masks for daily use are not surgical masks or respirators. Currently, those are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders. Cloth face coverings are sufficient to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people. The World Health Organization has created some videos about recommended fabric mask materials and composition that we encourage you to review. Please bring a supply of masks to ensure that you will always have access to a clean one. CDC guidelines for wearing a mask include:

  • Wash your hands before putting on your mask
  • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Fit it snugly against the sides of your face
  • Make sure you can breathe easily
  • Remove and discard your mask if soiled, damaged, or hard to breathe through.

Masks with exhalation valves or vents

The purpose of masks is to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others to aid with source control. Masks with one-way valves or vents allow exhaled air to be expelled out through holes in the material. This can allow exhaled respiratory droplets to reach others and potentially spread the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, the CDC does not recommend using masks if they have an exhalation valve or vent and we ask that you NOT use masks with valves or vents on campus.

Daily symptoms check

In accordance with CDC guidance, the WU Well U Agreement includes daily monitoring for possible COVID-19 symptoms. We have partnered with the CampusClear App (available for download for iOS or Android or via their web interface) to make this tracking easier. The CampusClear app is an optional tool designed to assist with daily self-screening. Users of the app are directed to appropriate resources if needed. Your personal information is protected and not shared with Willamette University.

Testing, quarantine and isolation

To respond to the presence of COVID-19 in our community, we are building a plan to evaluate students with suspected symptoms of COVID-19, including testing when indicated, through the Bishop Health and Wellness Center.  Though the broad testing of asymptomatic people is not currently recommended by the CDC or the Oregon Health Authority, we understand that some students may still desire to be tested.  For those interested in asymptomatic COVID testing, Oregon Health Authority's testing site finder provides an up to date inventory of commercial testing locations close to campus.   

Willamette will continue to work closely with local public health officials in their contact tracing efforts for all infected students, as has occurred throughout the pandemic. We also will have support and space on campus available for any student who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, who develop symptoms, or who themselves have tested positive, and need to quarantine or isolate safely. This includes meal delivery. Any student who has tested positive for COVID-19 should contact Tori Ruiz in the Office of Student Affairs (truiz@willamette.edu, 503- 370-6447) or the Bishop Health and Wellness Center so that we can ensure all the needed supports can be put in place.

Throughout the semester

These are some of the many efforts underway to help you have a healthy and productive semester. With all this in mind, I ask that you give yourself, your fellow students, and all members of our community a bit of grace this fall. Be patient with one another. This is a difficult time for everyone. We are all doing the best we can to provide a safe and rewarding experience, but we can’t do it without you. We are counting on you to follow the guidelines and care for yourself and your community members. We will rely on your passion for learning, your flexibility, your compassion, and our collective ability to do difficult things in extraordinary times. Together I believe we can make this a meaningful and memorable year. 

Take care and travel safely,

Lisa

Governor Kate Brown issued new requirements for face coverings and limits on social gatherings that go into effect today.

  • Oregon’s face covering requirement has been expanded to outdoor public spaces when six feet of distance cannot be maintained.
  • Indoor social get-togethers of more than 10 people are prohibited. This does not include businesses, churches or classrooms.

Brown also shared these facts about COVID-19 in Oregon.

  • More cases were reported in Oregon during the past week than in all of May.
  • Oregon has counted more than 100 new cases each day for more than a month now.
  • People under 30 account for one third of Oregon’s cases. Those under 40 make up half of the total cases.
  • Those in their 20s and 30s are currently the most likely group to get sick with COVID.

“We need to do absolutely everything we can to reduce transmission in ways that do not require us to close down businesses again,” said Brown. “The proof here will be in the numbers. Either people will adhere to this requirement and be a positive force for stopping COVID-19, or I will be forced to take more restrictive measures. It all depends on you. Your choices determine our future.”

If you forget to bring your mask to campus, single-use masks are available at the Service Center. Please call when you arrive (503-370-6300), and the staff will let you in. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

Dear Willamette students,

I write on behalf of Willamette’s Reopening Operations Committee (ROC) to share key aspects of our current plans to welcome students, faculty, and staff back to campus in the fall. Thank you for your patience as we have awaited state guidance.

As we reopen the university, our goal is to provide the highest-quality programs while protecting the health and safety of our community. This will require cooperation and flexibility from everyone and an understanding that even as we move past the extreme isolation of the last few months, it will still be far from business-as-usual this fall.

The ROC and its associated working groups have been developing policies and procedures for social distancing; personal protective equipment use; virus testing; classroom configuration and course schedules; dining; large events; and more. They must prepare both a baseline scenario and contingency plans to allow for our still-evolving understanding of the disease and the pandemic.

Highlights of the planned changes include:

  • A Fall 2020 semester calendar starting Monday, August 24, and finishing on Wednesday, November 25. Labor Day will be an instructional day, and fall break is eliminated, in the interest of reducing student travel to and from campus;
  • Reassignments of campus space to reduce density in classrooms, workplaces, and residence halls, and the use of physical barriers and masks when needed to augment distancing strategies;
  • New protocols for enhanced cleaning and disinfection of facilities;
  • Collaboration with local public health authorities for virus testing, contact tracing, and isolation, and quarantine protocols for the event of exposure or illness.

ORIENTATION AND FIRST DAY OF CLASSES

As noted, in-person instruction for all schools will begin Monday, August 24, and end Wednesday, November 25. Final exams will be administered online or through other alternate means, beginning Monday, November 30. In most cases, students should plan to return home from Thanksgiving until the start of the spring semester in January. Resident students needing an exemption (including some athletes) may request a waiver to remain on campus after the end of classes, but should not plan to travel outside the Salem area at Thanksgiving.

Claremont School of Theology is on a slightly different schedule with hybrid classes starting on August 24 and in-person classes beginning on Tuesday, September 1.

Opening Days and arrival information varies by college:

  • College of Arts and Sciences - Move-in will be by appointment, to manage group size and crowding. New undergraduate students will move in on either August 18 or August 19, depending on the assigned advising group. Students will be informed of their move-in day in early July, and will then sign up for a specific time. Other residential students will be asked to register for a move-in time on either August 22 or August 23.
  • College of Law - Orientation for first-year students is scheduled for Monday, August 17, through Wednesday, August 19, and will include a mix of online and in-person activities.
  • Atkinson Graduate School of Management - Compass Week orientation goes from Monday, August 17 through Friday, August 21, and will be in-person with an option to participate remotely. The required International Orientation for international students will be held on Friday, August 14. International students should connect with the Office of International Education to participate remotely.

CLASSROOMS AND RESIDENCE HALLS

Maximum classroom capacities will be reduced to meet state density standards, and audio and video technology has been installed whenever possible to support mixed-mode teaching and learning to allow the full participation of those who, because of either chronic or transient needs, cannot safely be physically present in class.

Residence hall density will be reduced, and no rooms will house more than two students. Common areas are being reconfigured to support physical distancing.

DINING

Planning continues on ways to maximize dining options and flexibility while reducing density and eliminating high-risk features like buffet lines. Still under review are options such as staggering course schedules to reduce times of particular crowding, as well as dining space expansions with covered outdoor seating. Goudy will not be open to the public this fall, focusing on students with meal plans. Faculty, staff, and non-resident students will find Grab and Go options at the University Center (in the former Mill Stream Market) and at Rick's Cafe. Kaneko Cafe will be closed at least through fall semester.

We anticipate that the Bistro will be open. Bon Appetit staff are helping develop plans for Bistro traffic flow, seating and food service options.

TESTING, TRACING, ISOLATION, AND QUARANTINE

Bishop Wellness Center expects to have adequate in-house capacity to do COVID-19 testing of students who are symptomatic or who have had close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19 status. Employee testing will, in most cases, be done through local providers under the university’s employee health insurance plan. Working closely with the local county health department and the Oregon Health Authority, Willamette has developed plans and identified appropriate spaces on campus to isolate students who are sick and quarantine those who may have been exposed. We will work closely with these county and state officials to manage an outbreak if it occurs, and will support contact tracing protocols. In what we hope is the unlikely event of a serious illness, we have a major regional health center with substantial experience treating Covid cases right across the street from campus.

Here are other key aspects of our reopening plans:

  • Consistent with the Governor’s order and public health recommendations, masks are required to be worn inside buildings on campus (including classrooms, workspaces and meeting rooms) and in other settings where maintaining 6 feet of distance is not feasible, both indoors and outdoors. For students without a mask, Willamette will provide washable, cloth face coverings. Students unable to wear a mask for health reasons, or for whom masks create a barrier to educational resources (e.g., for a student dependent on lip-reading), should contact the Accessible Education Office before returning to campus so an accommodation can be identified.
  • To limit channels for disease transmission and to facilitate contact tracing, campus spaces and buildings may be used only for official university business, remaining closed to the general public until further notice.
  • Students, staff, and faculty will be asked to conduct a self-check for COVID-19 symptoms before coming to campus every day.
  • Signage will be used to remind everyone on campus of the importance of simple public health practices, including handwashing and/or the use of hand sanitizers, physical distancing, and the wearing of masks.
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of campus spaces and the installation of plexiglass barriers in offices that experience high foot traffic will augment these basic precautions.

As long as it is, this letter captures only a broad view of the preparation work underway, and I’m sure it raises as many new questions as it answers. In the weeks ahead, as we and the health offices that support us continue to work towards a fully articulated infectious disease management plan, we’ll continue to provide updates and details. As updates become more detailed, we may target information to specific groups (such as faculty, graduate students, etc.), but all of the material will also be incorporated into our reopening website starting next week.

This is a new situation for all of us and not one that anybody would choose. But as we think about the ways that life on campus must be different this fall, I can’t help but reflect on how these months of social isolation have made me even more excited than I usually am about Opening Days and the annual autumnal renewal of our vibrant academic community.

We are fortunate to be part of a human-scale university, filled with creative people who are committed to finding ways to be safe in these unprecedented times without giving up the things that make Willamette such a special place. I want to make a special call-out to everyone on the Reopening Operations Committee and its subgroups, who are even now thinking about everything from lab safety to employee travel to football practices. Every activity, every space, every process is being carefully considered through a pandemic and equity lens, so we will be ready for a safe and successful 2020-21 academic year. We look forward to seeing you in eight weeks!

Sincerely,
Steve Thorsett

Dear Willamette Community,

Now that the class of 2020 has been successfully launched, our full attention turns to planning for fall and the preparations needed for the return of students and employees to campus.

As I noted in an earlier Words from Waller, the recent improvements in the public health situation in our region, along with draft guidance from the state and information from local health providers, have given us confidence that we will be able to return to in-person instruction in August safely. Today I want to share more details about the work being done to ensure that plans and protocols are in place, and that all members of the community understand their roles in protecting the health of themselves and others.

Our work is led by the same task force that developed our initial response to the crisis, now shifting its focus to planning for the resumption of our operations, as well as for various possible scenarios if the pandemic re-emerges into active growth in the fall or winter.

The Reopening Operations Committee (ROC) has segmented its work, led by four members of the university’s leadership team:

  • Academics (led by Provost Carol Long): instruction, technology infrastructure and academic services
  • Student Services (led by Don Thomson, Bishop Wellness Center Director in June and then Lisa Landreman, incoming VP for Student Affairs in July): housing, dining, and campus life
  • Human Resources (led by Shana Sechrist, VP for Human Resources and Risk Management): return to work plans for faculty and staff
  • Facilities and Physical Spaces (led by Dan Valles, VP for Finance): operations, capacity adjustments, protective equipment, cleaning

Within the ROC are workgroups formulating operational plans about public health protocols and education, research protocols, classroom structure and preparedness, housing protocols, dining protocols, and athletics.

All work is referenced back to county, regional, state, and federal public guidance, with allowance for the evolution of that guidance as more is learned about the epidemiology of the virus and testing and treatment protocols improve. It will be essential in the year ahead that Willamette University remains prepared to adapt nimbly, just as we successfully did in March with our shift to distance education.

If reliance on the guidance of the public health experts at the Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which is aimed at protecting the health and safety of our community members is our first principle for fall planning, our second is to focus on our core educational mission. It is the value of what we do in our classrooms and labs, our studios, and performance spaces that makes it so essential that we get back to that work as soon as possible this fall.

The ROC will send regular updates this summer as decisions are finalized about any necessary adjustments to our normal operations. Information will also be shared on our website.

One of the first important changes we are making is to our academic calendar to limit the number of times students must travel long distances to and from campus while maintaining the normal semester length.

In-person instruction in the undergraduate college will begin about a week earlier than previously planned, on Monday, August 24. Labor Day and the previously-scheduled mid-semester break day will be used as instructional days, and fall semester classes will end on Wednesday, November 25, after which students will return home until the start of the spring semester in January. Final exams will be administered online beginning Monday, November 30. (Students without home internet access may request an exception to be allowed to remain on campus for final exams.)

Detailed scheduling information for orientation, move-in and opening days will be shared directly with students next week.

As you know, for now, Willamette continues to operate under the Governor’s Executive Order limiting in-person activity on university campuses through June 13. Despite the anticipated expiration of that order, the 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. Any requests for expanded use of campus spaces in June or July must be approved in advance by a dean or vice president, to ensure they are properly aligned with our health and safety guidelines.

I appreciate that there are many questions about everything from dining services to athletics to requirements for the use of personal protective equipment. Our immediate priorities include addressing long lead-time facility needs, finalizing course capacity decisions that might require adjustments of teaching schedules, and preparing residence hall plans, but be assured that the ROC is carefully tracking concerns raised by students, staff, and faculty, and will respond to them in the weeks ahead.

Sincerely,

Steve

Campus Reopening Plan

Willamette University is pleased to be reopening for in-person, residential education after an extensive campus-wide planning effort in which working groups composed of faculty, staff, students, and administrators considered how to advance our mission while promoting the health and safety of our community amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Offering our traditional in-person format where possible is the best way we know how to deliver on our promise of an education that is transformative and inspires students to lead lives of achievement, contribution, and meaning. Our students value Willamette’s residential, community-based education, and our academic and personal support structures allow them the space for growth and identity formation (or re-formation), which makes being together in-person so important.

We also recognize that the pandemic is having an outsized impact on populations most historically-underrepresented on college campuses. Willamette has worked to ensure that our programs, academic developmental strategies, and advising structures serve these students well. In addition, Willamette is a place for students without internet at home or access to a safe, quiet, space to study. These are the students who need us to be there for them the most.

There is understandably anxiety and fear that many feel in the face of this pandemic and complex issues involved in our decision-making during this time of increased risk and uncertainty. Therefore, our reopening plans acknowledge the need for flexibility and options where possible. No student is being required to come to campus this semester and can participate in our academic programs wherever they are. In addition, faculty and staff are being given the flexibility to work in person or online, depending on their specific situation.

There are questions about why we are not testing every community member upon arrival to campus. Although testing is an important tool in the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19, given the current availability of tests nationally and regionally, the current public health guidance does not support broad testing of asymptomatic people upon arrival to campus. Specifically, the CDC indicates that it “does not recommend entry testing of all returning students, faculty, and staff.” The Oregon Health Authority and American College Health associations also took this position. However, we also know some people are interested in being tested, and we want to provide some resources to this end. There are locations in Oregon that will provide asymptomatic testing, although availability changes often. The Department of Health and Human Services’ testing site finder has up-to-date information about testing access in your area.

Willamette would not reopen if we did not think we could do it safely, and we will continue to monitor the conditions in Oregon, Marion County and Salem and across the country throughout the semester and make adjustments to our protocols and plans as necessary. However, for the planned return to campus to be successful, we must come together as a community and share in the commitment to adhere to public health guidance and work to make our campus a more inclusive and equitable place that puts the health and wellbeing of our fellow community members at the top of our collective priorities.


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