Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
I want to welcome you back from what I hope was a joyous and restorative break. As we begin our winter quarter this week—and with our School of Law embarking on their spring semester soon thereafter—we continue to be focused on safeguarding the health and safety of our campus community. Today, I write with some important updates and reminders on our COVID-19 response.
Virtual Classes Extended through January 30, 2022
Over the Christmas break, we announced that Seattle University would begin the new year in a mostly virtual learning environment. The decision was based on the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the state of Washington, across the United States and globally. In light of the continuing and rapid spread of Omicron, we have decided to extend the timeframe for remote learning through January 30, 2022. We will return to in-person classes beginning Monday, January 31, 2022.
Current projections suggest that the Omicron-driven wave will continue to grow rapidly before cresting over the next few weeks. While early research continues to indicate that the variant is less severe and results in milder illness compared to earlier variants, especially among vaccinated people, there is still a great deal of uncertainty. Public health officials are urging all of us to do what we can to help minimize its spread, mitigate burdens on the health care sector and protect our communities and those at higher risk. Extending our period of online instruction through the end of the month will give us time to gather additional information as it becomes available. As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will respond to that information with the safety of our community members and the quality of our students’ educational experience as our paramount considerations.
While most courses will take place online over the next few weeks, labs may be held in person. Clinical placements and practicums will also remain in person provided they are allowed at site locations. Faculty will provide additional guidance for any students who will be in person. As previously announced, our campus, including residence halls, dining services, the library and other operations will remain open during this time. Students in on-campus residence halls can still return as scheduled.
Additional guidance related to flexwork options for staff during the month of January is being considered and any updates will be communicated in the coming days.
We strongly recommend that everyone who is eligible to get your booster shot do so as soon as possible. While a decision on whether to require booster shots has yet to be made, we are now asking every member of the campus community to register their vaccination booster once you have received it. You can register here.
There will be additional vaccination clinics on campus this month. Details will be shared in the university’s COVID response updates and website. Please be sure to wear appropriate face coverings and follow the advice of medical experts on which masks work best to protect yourself and others, practice physical distancing where appropriate and take the Safe Start health check each day upon your return to campus. (Here is a link to a helpful article summarizing the latest public health advice on masks.)
Finally, testing is crucial to our ongoing COVID response. Entry testing is required of all students coming back to campus and it is highly recommended that students returning to campus from out of state get tested before they return. Please note that the deadline for entry testing is being extended and that a follow-up communication with more details will be sent to students.
As we begin this new calendar year together, I am mindful that we are nearing the end of two years of COVID-related disruption of so many aspects of our lives. All of us are ready to be done with this pandemic. I am hopeful that we are approaching the final stretch of this long and frankly exhausting marathon. I am deeply grateful to all of you for your efforts to keep our university and one another healthy and safe.
Eduardo M. Peñalver