Outbreak response and resources secured for fall


Casey Rothgeb

While on campus students and faculty are expected to follow COVID-19 protocols.

Bailey Tomlinson, News Editor

CWU has secured promised health and safety resources for students and employees this fall quarter, along with assembling a COVID-19 task force to respond to any positive cases of COVID-19 that occur on campus. These resources will be used to support student and employee health as the school opens amid the pandemic.

As far back as July, CWU officials have been discussing securing health and safety resources for students and employees. Key resources to ensure health and safety while opening include the ability to test for COVID-19, track cases and quarantine students. 

According to James Jankowski, director of the project management office, CWU has been able to secure these resources through extensive work with the Kittitas County Public Health Department (KCPHD). 

Testing for COVID-19 will be available both through CWU’s student health services and through health services in the greater Ellensburg area. 

“If [student health services] for some reason are unable to administer a test, or it’s after hours or what have you, we’ve worked in close partnership with Kittitas Valley Hospital, their [COVID-19] clinic. We can refer students to there to get tested as well,” Jankowski said.

Working closely with KCPHD has also allowed the school to utilize health services they provide, like contact tracing, which will be done entirely through the county.

Executive Director of Human Resources Staci Sleigh-Layman said contact tracing was being done through the county partially to maintain a level of privacy between individuals and the institution.

CWU has additionally developed an incident command team, called the COVID Task Force, composed of housing, dining, academic, custodial, health department and human resources members. This Task Force was initially assembled in May and has been restructured to manage any positive cases on campus, Jankowski said. 

“The task force is paying particular attention to guidelines and recommendations pertaining to colleges and universities. In addition to a summary report providing testing, tracing, illness and recovery details for the CWU community, the task force is preparing an operating manual for use by medical and emergency personnel on and off campus,” an official CWU fall reopening document states.

Currently, it’s meeting daily to discuss plans for fall quarter and perform tabletop exercises of mock scenarios that may occur. 

“You can’t obviously prepare for every scenario, but a lot of them you can,” Jankowski said. 

The task force will be called upon in the event that outbreaks do occur on campus. The team will support students in quarantine or isolation in every facet of life, such as ensuring food is safely delivered to them and providing them with mental health resources.

“When we do have positive cases then that group will assess it, will work together with the county, the health department has membership on that team, and they’ll manage that as best they can,” Jankowski said. “There’s going to be constant communication with our president, with our county, our leadership … We will make adjustments as needed to be as preventative as possible.” 

The COVID Task Force also has the ability to begin conversations on whether or not CWU will need to shut down at any point in the quarter. According to Sleigh-Layman, the quarter will move to entirely online learning should it be necessary for health and safety.

“I think what we’re trying to do is be comfortable with uncomfortableness, and we’re a higher-ed institution so we always want to have an answer before something happens,” Sleigh-Layman said. “And I just think we have to live in this ambiguity until we’re faced with the situations as they occur.”

Additionally, the fall quarter has been accelerated to end Nov. 20 in an attempt to end the quarter before a predicted increase in flu and COVID-19 cases and to avoid the logistics of students leaving and returning to campus around the Thanksgiving holiday, the employee FAQ said.