CWU News

From the President: Mask Mandate Update for Spring Quarter

Dear Colleagues,

Almost exactly two years ago, we experienced a major disruption to our normal and expected way of life as a university and a nation. We shifted, overnight, from meeting together in classrooms, conference rooms, offices, and hallways to meeting in square boxes on our computer screens. When we did see each other, we were masked and muffled and weren’t certain how to greet each other. Fist bump? Elbow bump? Handshake?

We are at a pivotal moment in the pandemic—tired of masking and distancing yet wary of the still present danger of a virus that has ravaged the world. Based on the feedback we have received, half of you are ready to drop the masks and return to some semblance of normality. Half of you want to maintain the masks for your safety or the safety of others who you care for. Some of you have pointed to the negative mental health effects of masking. Some of you have pointed to the health and safety of the immunocompromised and those too young to be vaccinated.

And, so, I’m going to ask for grace—at a time when I know that well is running dry.

I have met with and listened to each of our shared governance groups—faculty, students, exempt employees, classified employees, and administrators. In these meetings, I have asked them to help the university move toward a consensus that honors these disparate perspectives—that weaves our community back together in what I hope will be a final act of grace.

As a result of these conversations, Central Washington University will follow these guidelines:

  • Masks will continue to be required inside all classes through the end of the day Friday, April 8—about two weeks into spring quarter.
  • Masks will continue to be required at large indoor gatherings (500 or more individuals) through the end of the day Friday, April 8.
  • Masks will not be required inside all other spaces in our campus buildings, effective March 19 (with some exceptions noted below). 
  • Unless we communicate otherwise, the mask mandate will end for all indoor spaces at the end of the day Friday, April 8 (with some exceptions noted below).
  • University Centers and instructional sites will continue to follow the directive of their host institution.

This extension of the mask mandate in places where we gather closely will provide us the opportunity to return from spring break, hold testing clinics, check our wellness, and monitor transmission rates. Three testing clinics will be held March 29-31 in the SURC and a booster clinic on March 29. We have found that these clinics have assisted us in the process of keeping our community healthy and safe.

Masks will continue to be required in several places, even beyond the end of the mask mandate:

  • Lab classes that have close contact, as noted by the faculty member on their syllabus.
  • Public transportation.
  • Health and medical facilities, including the CWU Student Medical and Counseling Center.
  • University-owned or contracted vans or buses for the transportation of large groups of students.

Information about COVID-19 strategies in the Early Childhood Learning Center, including masking, is available by e-mailing Faculty may request that masks continue to be worn in their classes after April 8, and any employee or student may request that those entering their spaces when they are occupied (e.g., offices, residence hall rooms) wear a mask. We ask that you honor those requests, recognizing that individuals may have reasons for requesting the additional safety measure.

Central Washington University continues to be under the governor’s Higher Education directive, which defines a vaccinated campus and provides guidelines for our operation. Those individuals who are not vaccinated will have their accommodations updated for the spring quarter. Human Resources will be in touch.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to monitor data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Washington State Department of Health, and our local public health officials. As you may know, the CDC recently changed its guidance on masking, which is now based on three factors: (1) hospital beds used for COVID-19 patients, (2) hospital admissions for COVID-19, and (3) transmission rates, all at a county level. You can see county-level data on the CDC website.

At this time, the new CDC guidance places Kittitas County in the low range, which means masks are encouraged but not required—and this is the direction we are moving in at Central Washington University. If our status changes and we move back into a higher range, we will gather again and discuss reinstituting the mask mandate.

A few reminders:

  • Vaccinations and boosters are safe and reliable and the best means for protecting yourself and our community from COVID-19; if you have not been vaccinated or boosted, please do so.
  • If you do not feel well, stay home and contact your supervisor or instructor. And get tested.
  • After the mask mandate ends, masking will be optional and considered a personal choice. As a caring community, we should support each other in whatever choices we make, so long as we follow the guidelines outlined above.
  • Masks worn by individuals do increase their safety. Remember that we do not know why an individual may be wearing a mask. They may be immunocompromised or may be caring for family members who cannot be vaccinated. Provide everyone grace.
  • Masks will continue to be available in the Student Union and Recreation Center.
  • Faculty, staff, and student employees who need an accommodation should contact Human Resources.
  • Students who need an accommodation should contact Disability Services.

I appreciate the leadership and thoughtfulness of our shared governance groups as we have moved through making a challenging decision, knowing that it will certainly not meet everyone’s desires. To date, we have followed the science and made decisions that are focused on maintaining the health and safety of our university community. We will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months.

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to the CWU community and beyond over the last two years. Your work continues to make a difference in the lives of others.

And thank you for your patience, your care, and your grace.

Be well,

Jim Wohlpart
CWU President