COVID-19 updates announced at HR meeting


Bailey Tomlinson, News Editor

Representatives from several departments went over winter quarter health and safety strategies, testing plans and the potential of campus being a vaccine site.

This information, released  at a meeting held by Human Resources (HR) to nearly 200 attendees on Tuesday, Jan. 5.  comes shortly after the launch of CWU’s new COVID-19 website, where information such as FAQs and a COVID-19 case dashboard can be found.

“[CWU] is in the process of being approved as a vaccine site to get vaccines to the students as soon as we are approved.” Dr. Carylin Holsey, director of the health center said. “Understand that we can only get what is allocated to us, but based on what we’ve seen we will have an allocation that will support the students. And we have a plan in place already.”

Director of the Project Management Office James Jankowski said conversations are currently happening about whether vaccination would be required for both students and employees, but there currently is not an answer.

Both Jankowski and Holsey said more information would be released as it was made available. 

Clarifications were made regarding the Welcome Back testing being held in Nicholson Pavillion through Jan. 13 by Holsey. While it is still required for all students living, working or attending any mode of in-person classes on campus, it is not a requirement to be able to come back to campus.

Students who are entirely remote do not need to be tested during this period, and should email [email protected] specifying their remote status to be removed from testing lists.

“The biggest question we’ve had here in the office is, ‘When do I need to get the test?” Holsey said. “Just take the test on your assigned date, there’s no testing required to come back to campus, there’s no testing required for you to be a student worker on campus, until such day that you’re assigned to be tested.”

Student employees who are considered critical to on-site operation may return to work prior to their Welcome Back testing date, according to Holsey. If a student employee is not considered critical, they should not be on-site anyways during the first two weeks, Holsey said.

“No one is under quarantine or isolation at this time. The rationale behind the testing four to five days after returning to campus is this, that’s the typical time that it takes for a viral load to increase,” Holsey said. “So once they’re here four to five days, then we test, and that gives us our true footprint of what’s going on on the campus so we can help mitigate and manage any positive cases and also hope to set some other people at ease on where we are starting out the quarter.”

All employees are being asked to work entirely remotely as much as possible between now and Jan. 19, with only employees critical to on-site operation working in person during that period.

Students who cannot be tested during their assigned testing day should not show up for a different day, Holsey said.

“To test all 4,000 plus students that we’re going to be testing in five days, we have to stick to that date. If there’s a mitigating circumstance, I would suggest [the student] send an email to wildcathealthcovid explaining that and seeing what we can do,” Holsey said.

Students who cannot come to a testing day are required to provide their own COVID-19 test equivalent to the PCR test used by Student Health Services (SHS). 

Students providing their own test must do so within 72 hours of receiving the results, and can either schedule an appointment to drop the results off at SHS or email them to [email protected]. Walk-in results will not be accepted without first making an appointment, Holsey said.

Testing requirements do not apply to Center students, Staci Sleigh-Layman, executive director of human resources, said.

CWU employees can still be tested for free at Kittitas Valley Healthcare (KVH) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. any day of the week.

During the Q&A session of the meeting, an attendee raised concerns of students ignoring health and safety protocols and using the opportunity to be tested to “go on trips they’ve planned with their parents.” 

“So what is the point of testing students who aren’t following any other protocols, meanwhile, critical staff get no support other than being told not to get sick on the clock?” the attendee said. “If no one is under quarantine, then the students are just now returning from being all over and aren’t following any logical protocols, then what is the point other than the administration feeling good about it considering most of those administrators aren’t critical or required to be here?”

Sleigh-Layman said that in part, the measures are being taken to get students into a new bubble from the ones that they are returning from.

“We are trying to create a safe and virus-free or at least virus-minimized environment, and testing is a way to figure out what our baselines are, and what kind of strategies we need to keep in place,” Sleigh-Layman said. 

For example, many positive tests during the welcome testing period may mean the two week fully-remote period gets extended, according to Sleigh-Layman. 

Associate Dean for Health and Wellness Shawnté Elbert said, in response to the attendee, that students returning from traveling over winter break is no different than when they returned to campus after summer or spring break in 2020. 

“A big part of the work that we do within the Health and Wellness unit … is that we want to educate our students. And in turn, they take the same education around health and wellness back to their bubbles, to their circles and family,” Elbert said. “I wanted to emphasize that what we’re seeing, what we saw over Christmas break with the mass travel, is no different from what we saw over summer, last 2020, and what we saw over spring break, in 2020 when COVID first hit us here in the U.S.”

Elbert said that Holsey and her team are working to educate students on what it means to have a limited bubble during the pandemic, though  she understands those who question  why efforts are being made for students who will disregard health and safety protocol. 

“I am sorry that there are some people that are critical to the operation of the institution that have to be on site and I understand that it’s not fair. That doesn’t minimize the work that they do, it just is, it is the best that we can hope for in this period of time,” Sleigh-Layman said.

All students and employees are encouraged to continue to adopt health and safety strategies such as completing the MyCWU attestation form, daily health checks, avoiding close contact, wearing a cloth face covering, physical distancing and washing hands often.

“Bringing students back to campus, having face-to-face courses, that’s who we are as a university,” Sleigh-Layman said. “The sooner and the more often that we are able to control the virus and the spread by using these strategies, the sooner we will get back to being the university that we’ve always been.”

Health and safety protocol violations can be reported by filing a behavior of concern form, which can be found through MyCWU or on CWU’s website, Sleigh-Layman said.

Later this month, CWU will begin its own contact tracing and investigation. Prior to this, it has been done through the county. The change comes as the county and state “reach capacity,” according to Holsey.

“We have put people in place to manage and work with our students to make sure they have the best outcome and the most relevant, up to date information we can get to them,” Holsey said.