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Recent Updates

  • January 22, 2021: Weekly COVID-19 Recap

    In an ongoing effort to keep the community informed, the Reopening Operations Committee is committed to offering statewide, regional and campus public health updates to our community every Friday.

    Reopening Operations Committee update

    Here are some of the topics ROC discussed in the past week.

    • New COVID-19 strain
    • Admissions tours
    • Physical activity and wellness solutions

    Regional and statewide public health update

    The most current Oregon Health Authority weekly update can be found here.

    Marion County’s COVID-19 website can be found here.

    New variant COVID-19 virus strain

    On Jan. 15, Oregon Health Authority announced that they had been informed that an Oregon resident tested positive with the variant COVID-19 virus strain originally detected in the United Kingdom. This strain has been detected in several states, including California. It is important to note that viruses constantly mutate, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Most of these variants do not change how the virus behaves, and many disappear.

    We are continuing to monitor these new strains and will update the community as more information becomes available.

    Our current mitigation strategies are still very important in combating the virus. As a reminder, this includes: maintaining six feet of physical distance, wearing a face covering, practicing good hand hygiene, and limiting social gatherings.

    Vaccination rollout in Oregon

    Although we had previously believed that higher education would be included in Phase 1b of the vaccination rollout program, we have since learned that higher education employees are not included with the K–12 employees in 1b. This confirmation came from our most recent communication with the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission. We are in continued conversation with HECC and other partners to determine where higher education employees will be included in the vaccination plan.

    Additionally, last week the federal government indicated that it would be sending out the stockpile of vaccinations it had in the federal reserve to increase distribution in every state. We have since learned from the governor’s office that “states will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses.” This abrupt change in the expected supply will push back the distribution timeline that Gov. Brown and the Oregon Health Authority had shared earlier last week.

    It will continue to take time for the vaccines to be widely available and meet the demand of the groups eligible for vaccinating. We will continue to share information as we receive it.

    Surveillance testing in the spring semester

    As a reminder, in response to changing guidance and test availability in Oregon, Bishop Wellness Center will begin surveillance testing of undergraduate, law and graduate students in February. Each week, a random sample of students currently attending in-person classes will be selected to take a COVID-19 diagnostic nasal swab test. If selected, students will receive an email with the subject line “COVID-19 Testing: You have been selected.” The tests are the rapid antigen tests with results available the day of collection. There will be no direct costs to students asked to participate in surveillance testing. Bishop will also be able to offer limited testing of asymptomatic people by request for a $50 fee as supplies are available.

    Some additional details

    • Students selected for testing will receive an email asking them to schedule an appointment with Bishop Wellness Center.
    • Appointments for these randomly selected students will be available from 10 a.m.–noon, Monday–Friday.
    • Students who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or are a known close contact of a person with confirmed COVID-19 should call Bishop Wellness Center for a separate appointment time and not participate in this surveillance testing program.

    We are pleased that we are able to add testing to our ongoing mitigation strategies. However, it is important to remember that the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID is to wear face masks, to maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from others, to practice good hand washing hygiene and to follow all university and state guidelines. With the vaccination process beginning, there is hope for a return to some sense of normalcy on the horizon. By continuing to commit to our care for one another, we can get through these next few months an even stronger community.

    More FAQs on surveillance testing can be found here.

    Cases

    We reported no new cases in the past week.

    Please note that the confirmed case dashboard was created to keep the community apprised of possible transmission on campus. As such, we do not report cases when individuals are not physically present on campus this semester (for example, students studying remotely and living out of the area).

    As a reminder, we require any community member who is ever on campus, however briefly, who tests positive for COVID-19 to report that to the university. As was stated in the Aug. 28 Today@Willamette, students should self-report their positive COVID-19 status to Tori Ruiz in Student Affairs at Truiz@willamette.edu, 503-370-6447, or by submitting a COVID-19 CARE Report form. Faculty and staff should report their positive case status to Human Resources at 503-370-6210 or by submitting this Employee COVID-19 Report form.

    To date, all COVID-19 tests administered in Bishop Wellness Center have been negative.

    Community compliance updates

    As we resume classes, please remember that we signed the WU Well U Agreement and agreed to affirm its commitments as a member of a caring campus community.

    As a reminder, we are in a quiet period and will be for the beginning of the semester. During this time, campus remains closed to visitors, classes are remote and all employees are asked to work remotely unless otherwise approved by their supervisor.

  • January 15, 2021: Important updates around vaccine distribution and sequencing

    Dear Colleagues,

    We write with an update regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and its distribution within the state of Oregon, specifically for higher education. We shared with you information from Gov. Brown’s press conference last week, in which the Governor stated that higher education faculty and staff would be included with K-12 employees in Phase 1b of the vaccine sequencing. Since that time, Oregon Health Authority has not included higher education in their communications about Phase 1b which has led to some confusion. We have reached out to try to confirm higher education’s inclusion in Phase 1b per the Governor’s statement. Our most recent communication with the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission indicates that higher education employees are not currently included with K-12 employees in Phase 1b.

    Additionally, this week the Federal Government indicated that it would be sending out the stockpile of vaccinations it had in the federal reserve to increase distribution in every state. We have since learned from the Governor’s office that, “States will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses.” This abrupt change in the expected supply will push back the distribution timeline that Gov. Brown and the Oregon Health Authority had shared earlier in the week.

    It will continue to take time for the vaccines to be widely available and meet the demand of the groups eligible for vaccinating.

    It is important to remember that the vaccine is one of many tools we have to control the spread of the virus. Hand washing, wearing masks, physical distancing, contact tracing, and other public health measures continue to be critical to our mitigation efforts. Although we may feel relief that vaccines are here, this is not the time to relax these measures.

    We will continue to share information as we get it.

    Thank you for your continued efforts to keep our community safe and healthy.

    Sincerely,
    Reopening Operations Committee

  • January 15, 2021: Weekly COVID-19 Recap

    In an ongoing effort to keep the community informed, the Reopening Operations Committee is committed to offering statewide, regional and campus public health updates to our community every Friday.

    Reopening Operations Committee update

    Here are some of the topics ROC discussed in the past week.

    • Vaccination distribution
    • Testing protocols
    • Return to campus plans and classes
    • Updates to COVID website

    Regional and statewide public health update

    The most current Oregon Health Authority weekly update can be found here.

    Marion County’s COVID-19 website can be found here.

    Surveillance testing in the spring semester

    In response to changing guidance and test availability in Oregon, Bishop Wellness Center will begin surveillance testing of undergraduate, law, and graduate students in February. Each week, a random sample of students currently attending in-person classes will be selected to take a COVID-19 diagnostic nasal swab test. If selected, students will receive an email with the subject line “COVID-19 Testing: You have been selected.” The tests are the rapid antigen tests with results available the day of collection. There will be no direct costs to students asked to participate in surveillance testing. Bishop will also be able to offer limited testing of asymptomatic people by request for a $50 fee as supplies are available.

    Some additional details

    • Students selected for testing will receive an email asking them to schedule an appointment with Bishop Wellness Center.
    • Appointments for these randomly selected students will be available from 10 a.m. to noon, Monday–Friday.
    • Students who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or are a known close contact of a person with confirmed COVID-19 should call Bishop Wellness Center for a separate appointment time and not participate in this surveillance testing program.

    We are pleased that we are able to add testing to our on-going mitigation strategies. However, it is important to remember that the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID is to wear face masks, maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from others, practice good hand washing hygiene, and to follow all university and state guidelines. With the vaccination process beginning, there is hope for a return to some sense of normalcy on the horizon. By continuing to commit to our care for one another we can get through these next few months an even stronger community.

    Return to campus for undergraduate students

    Earlier this week, President Thorsett sent out important information around return to campus plans amid the concerns of protests occurring at the capitol between Jan. 16 and Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. To address these concerns, residential students who’d prefer not to travel before Inauguration Day have the option of starting classes from home and returning between Jan. 21–23 instead. The later return date is encouraged, but students are still welcome to return on Jan. 19 if they wish to do so.

    Classes for CAS students will start as scheduled Jan. 20, with all classes remote. To ensure a safe restart to the semester we will begin with a quiet period, as previously communicated. With the expansion of return dates for residential students we are extending this quiet period through Monday, Feb. 1, with in-person classes starting on Tuesday, Feb. 2. This means that if you are taking any in-person classes, you must return to Salem or move into your residence no later than Jan. 23.

    Cases

    We reported two new confirmed cases in the past week.

    Please note that the confirmed case dashboard was created to keep the community apprised of possible transmission on campus. As such, we do not report cases when individuals are not physically present on campus this semester (for example, students studying remotely and living out of the area).

    As a reminder, we require any community member who is ever on campus, however briefly, who tests positive for COVID-19 to report that to the university. As was stated in the Aug. 28 Today@Willamette, students should self-report their positive COVID-19 status to Tori Ruiz in Student Affairs at Truiz@willamette.edu, 503-370-6447, or by submitting a COVID-19 CARE Report form. Faculty and staff should report their positive case status to Human Resources at 503-370-6210 or by submitting this Employee COVID-19 Report form.

    To date, all COVID-19 tests administered in Bishop Wellness Center have been negative.

    Community compliance updates

    As we resume classes, please remember that we signed the WU Well U Agreement and agreed to affirm its commitments as a member of a caring campus community.

    As a reminder, we are in a quiet period and will be for the beginning of the semester. During this time, campus remains closed to visitors, classes are remote and all employees are asked to work remotely unless otherwise approved by their supervisor.

  • January 8, 2021: COVID-19 Vaccination updates

    Dear Colleagues,

    We write to you with promising news around the COVID-19 vaccine and it’s distribution within the state of Oregon, specifically for Higher Education. Today, during a press conference hosted by Gov. Kate Brown, it was confirmed that higher education educators and staff will be included in group 1b of the phased distribution for vaccinations in the state.

    While the inclusion of higher education faculty and staff is welcome news, it is important to remember that it will take some time for the vaccines to be widely available and distributed as the county and state work to complete vaccinations for individuals in group 1a. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has organized a phased distribution approach, in line with CDC guidance, to ensure vaccination distribution is done in a fair and equitable way.

    We met recently with representatives from our health insurance provider, Kaiser Permanente, to better understand the vaccine distribution plan and process.

    Things you need to know:

    • Current vaccination groups include frontline health care workers and long-term care residents and employees. This includes doctors, nurses, janitorial staff, and others who have the potential for direct or indirect contact with COVID-19 patients or infectious materials. Willamette has identified employees that qualify for this group and provided information on vaccination sites for them.
    • OHA is working on identifying the groups that will be next in line for the vaccine after our frontline health care workers have received their vaccination. As mentioned above, Gov. Brown confirmed today that educators and staff for K-12 as well as higher education will be included in the 1b group for vaccination. More information around this group will be released toward the end of the month.
    • Willamette will not be a vaccination dispensing site. Individuals seeking the vaccine (once they are eligible) will have the ability to schedule an appointment through Kaiser Permanente or visit one of the county-organized vaccination clinics.
    • There are no out-of-pocket costs to receive the vaccine, no matter which location you visit to receive the vaccination.
    • Oregon is receiving vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna, both of which require two doses to be administered for full immune response. The Pfizer vaccine requires 21 days in between each dose whereas the Moderna vaccine requires 28 days and each dose an individual receives should be from the same manufacturer.
    • The vaccine assists in keeping individuals from getting sick, but it still may be possible to get, carry and transmit the virus even after you are vaccinated.

    It is important to remember that the vaccine is one many tools we have to control the spread of the virus. Hand washing, wearing masks, social distancing, contact tracing, and other public health measures continue to be critical to our mitigation efforts. Although we may feel relief that vaccines are here, this is not the time to relax these measures.

    We will continue to share information as we get it.

    Thank you for your continued efforts to keep our community safe and healthy.

    Sincerely,
    Reopening Operations Committee

  • January 4, 2021: Update on Returning to Campus from Winter Break

    Welcome back and Happy New Year!

    We hope you all had a restful winter break. We want to provide some important health and safety reminders as we start the new term and prepare for our students’ return.

    Important Guidelines

    Employees who are able to perform their duties remotely must continue to do so and not come to campus unless absolutely necessary. Employees must check with their supervisor if there are questions or concerns about whether to work on campus or remotely. If you believe you need to work on campus for any reason your division leader or dean must provide prior approval.

    Based on the metrics released by Gov. Kate Brown in December, Marion County is still identified as an “Extreme Risk” county which means a number of restrictions continue to be in place, including limitations on the size of gatherings and restrictions against indoor dining and recreation. 


    Things to Remember

    • Hallie Ford Museum and Sparks Fitness Center remain closed until further notice.
    • Campus offices will operate remotely in all cases where the work can be done virtually.
    • Bon Appetit locations will reopen over the course of January.
      • Rick’s Cafe will reopen with limited days and hours on Jan. 11.
      • Goudy reopens Jan. 19.
      • Blitz Market reopens on Jan. 20.
      • No indoor, in-person dining is allowed at this time due to state guidelines. Goudy seating will be closed. We can provide an option for those who may not be in residence or have office space on campus to eat.
    • All residence halls will reopen on Jan. 19 with an exception for students who have been preapproved for an early arrival (e.g. new students, RAs).

    Quiet period

    As we welcome AGSM and Law students back for classes next week, we will begin the semester with a quiet period to protect both Willamette and the larger community.

    The quiet period for the graduate schools will take place Jan. 11–20.

    Undergraduate students’ quiet period will be Jan. 20–30.

    This means:

    • Attending classes remotely during the quiet period.
    • Reducing the number of people with whom you’re in contact.
    • Limiting traffic in campus buildings.
    • Avoiding social gatherings.

    Continued diligence

    While the distribution of effective COVID-19 vaccines has us hopeful that the end of the pandemic is on the horizon, we are still in the midst of it and must continue to be diligent with the public health measures established last semester.

    • Wear a mask at all times both indoors and outdoors.
    • Maintain 6 feet of distance from others at all times.
    • Wash your hands frequently.
    • Avoid large gatherings or events.

    Thank you for supporting the health and safety of our campus and greater community and for your flexibility during these ever-changing and uncertain times.

    Sincerely,
    Reopening Operations Committee

  • December 7, 2020: Update on Spring 2021 Semester

    We write with an update on Willamette’s planning for the Spring semester.  As you well know, the course of this pandemic is dynamic, with regional and local guidance changing frequently as the number of cases continues to rise.  We are closely monitoring the public health landscape and are in frequent contact with local health officials as we plan for the Spring.

    As has been communicated previously, we fully intend to welcome students back to campus for an in-person experience in January for students who choose this option. The first day of classes for the law school and graduate programs will be January 11th. The first day of classes for the College of Arts and Sciences will be January 20th.

    Here is what you need to know now so that you can plan accordingly for your return in January.

    1. We strongly recommend students quarantine for 10 days prior to traveling back to campus. [Note this is informed by the updated CDC guidelines around quarantine for positive cases and close contacts]. We recognize that a quarantine of this nature may be complicated for many.  However, whatever you can do to reduce your social interactions 10 days prior to coming back to campus is helpful in mitigating the spread of the virus - this includes avoiding large gatherings and events, maintaining six-feet of distance between yourself and others, and practicing vigilant handwashing
    2. To minimize the chances of spreading the virus during travel, we recommend that students who are traveling back to Salem and/or intend to engage in on-campus activities acquire a diagnostic COVID PCR test (not antigen) 72 hours prior to traveling back to campus for students. If the test result is positive, the student must not travel or come to campus and should isolate according to their physician’s medical advice. Since many students will be traveling from a variety of places, the available testing options will vary. We recommend contacting your local health provider for testing options in your area. Oregon testing options can be found using OHA’s Oregon testing side finderAs a reminder, testing is not a replacement for our proven virus mitigation strategies (e.g., wearing masks, maintaining six-foot distance, staying home when feeling ill, frequent handwashing, etc.).
    3. Upon the start of January return to classes, we will again implement an enhanced “quiet period” for all community members for 10 days. A quiet period for graduate schools and law will take place January 11th- January 20th. The undergraduate student's quiet period will be January 20th - 30th. This means:
      • Attend classes remotely during the quiet period.
      • In-person class size will be capped at 24 students and 1 instructor
      • Reduce the number of people with whom you’re in contact
      • Limit traffic in campus buildings
      • Avoid social gatherings
      • Grab & go food will be provided at Goudy - no in-person seating

      If you return to campus at a later date than the scheduled start of classes, we expect that you will initiate your own quiet period for the 10 days following the time you return to campus or the Salem area. Note that all undergraduate students who have registered for an in-person class need to be back in the area by January 19th so that they can attend in-person classes when they resume on February 1st.

    4. Any student traveling to campus from outside Oregon will need to follow all relevant travel restrictions in place at the time.

    Important reminders for Spring Semester

    In order to minimize mid-semester travel this Spring and to support a later start date for classes, we have had to eliminate our traditional week-long spring break. Instead, we have a two-day break scheduled for March 25-26th in addition to adding a day to Student Scholarship Recognition Day (SSRD) April 20-21st, making it a two-day event. We strongly urge students and the community to limit or avoid any unnecessary travel outside of the Salem area during these break times and throughout the semester, and to follow any travel restrictions set by local or federal authorities.

    We are also asking that all members of the community continue to report positive COVID-19 test results to the university as we head into the winter break and our regular campus closure. In response to evolving guidance, we will only be messaging positive cases that have intersected with the campus while the person was potentially contagious per CDC definitions. This approach will continue as we transition into the spring semester.

    We will continue to monitor the guidance from the state and update you as information changes or becomes available.

View the update archives

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 well-being of our fellow community members at the top of our collective priorities.

Willamette University

COVID-19 Task Force

Phone
503-370-6584