Dear Campus Community,
As you likely know, the first positive case of COVID-19 in Whatcom County was reported this afternoon. Consequently, Whatcom County has declared a public health emergency, and university leadership has decided that we will move to online classes at all Western locations, meaning that there will be no face-to-face classes as of 8 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, March 11, through the end of the quarter on March 20.
Faculty will either provide exams online, or make other arrangements, including the possibility of a final grade based on work completed. Please check on Canvas for further details from your instructors. The university will remain open, and regular operations, other than instruction, will continue. If students choose to remain on campus, they may do so. We plan to resume classes after Spring Break on March 31, pending any further guidance from the Health Department. For employees who are concerned about possible exposure, please contact your supervisor to make appropriate arrangements.
I apologize for the lateness of this message. We have been closely assessing the situation since this afternoon. Further information will be forthcoming in the morning from the Incident Command System team and Academic Affairs.
The Whatcom County patient is a woman in her 60s who received medical care at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center. Her condition improved and she was discharged. Since that time she has been self-isolated at home. She has no known international travel history, according to the Whatcom County Health Department. County health officials are working aggressively to identify all those who may have come in contact with the woman.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 are older adults, and people with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, and those who may have suppressed immune systems.
I know this disruption at the end of the quarter may cause some concern, but please know that we have been planning for this possibility. Your understanding and patience, and care for others, is greatly appreciated.
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.