Coronavirus Update for June 8: Extending the University’s remote working directive

Dear Faculty and Staff, 

As conditions in our state and local community continue to move toward allowing the reopening of businesses, I know that many employees are asking about when they can return to campus to work.  Other employees are concerned about returning to campus. In late May, Governor Inslee introduced a four-phased approach to the reopening of businesses and institutions across Washington state and the new ‘Safe Start Washington’ plan to replace his previous Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order. This new plan includes suggested phases for reopening that also continue restrictions for government employees to return to work unless such employees are authorized to return to work by other proclamations from the governor. 

The Executive Team at Western has reviewed our situation very carefully, with the health and safety of people being our highest priority. Physical distancing is a crucial measure for slowing the spread of COVID-19. Based on the latest guidance from the state and from other credible sources, Western will continue requiring all employees who can telework or work from home without impacting essential operations to continue to do so through the end of Phase 2; Whatcom County currently is in Phase 2. 

We will continue to monitor the Governor’s guidance for Phase 3 and issue additional University guidelines in the coming weeks. I know that some of you are anxious to return to work on campus and there are others who prefer working at home. While each of us may wish to make our own decision to return to campus, I must emphasize that such decisions will be made at the college or divisional level after careful planning.  

In that planning, it is imperative that departments balance individual desires with concerns about the health and safety of everyone, particularly the most vulnerable in our University community.   Allowing additional employees on campus increases the frequency and likelihood of reduced physical distancing. Because of that, the decision to return to campus will be much more about overall campus safety than individual choice. 

Departments who need to increase their presence on campus or have employees with a bona fide need to be on campus will be asked to develop plans that protect everyone’s workplace safety. These plans will include appropriate scheduling, cleaning plans, work-space modifications, cleaning protocols, personal protective measures, etc.  Guidelines and support to help departments develop these plans will be provided in the coming days.  

For those of you who are considered ‘high risk,’ please rest assured that you will not be asked to return to campus until it is considered safe for you to do so. 

As the COVID-19 situation changes daily, we remain committed to doing everything we can do to preserve the health and safety of our campus community. Thank you for all you do. 


Rich Van Den Hul 

Incident Commander 

Vice President, Business and Financial Affairs 


The Incident Command System team at Western has established three goals for all of our preparation and response to COVID-19:  to protect life safety and minimize the spread of the coronavirus illness, to maintain – as much as possible – the continuity of Western’s operations, and to communicate with our communities as fully as possible.

Western's coronavirus information website features Frequently Asked Questions; has links to campus, regional and national resources; an archive of campus messaging and media stories about coronavirus; a new toll-free campus coronavirus information line, and more. The site is a living document, and will get frequent updates as the coronavirus situation evolves.

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Monday, June 8, 2020 - 10:26am