Dear Willamette community,
Winter break is upon us and we once again thank you for doing your part to help protect the health and wellness of our community throughout the pandemic.
Recent updates from national and state health authorities have made it clear that the new Omicron variant is more transmissible than any previous COVID variant. This new information requires a shift in Willamette’s approach to containing the virus when we return for the spring semester.
Willamette will enforce a two-week “quiet period”, during which students will be encouraged to limit their in-person activities and interactions. Many classes that can be made remote will move online during this two-week period with the intention of returning to full in-person instruction after the quiet period is completed. For the Salem campus, the quiet period will begin January 10. For the PNCA campus, the quiet period will begin January 18.
Department of Athletics staff will communicate any changes to athletics after January 3 if needed as more information becomes known.
We expect everyone to return to campus as originally planned. Some classes that rely on in-person activities (such as science labs) will require your presence, and hybrid flex options for such courses will not be provided. Given the risk of infection during travel, this quiet period of reduced interaction after travel gives us the opportunity to identify any cases before they have the opportunity to spread widely in our community. Please do not delay your return to campus; depending on what we learn in the weeks ahead, it might be necessary to enforce an additional quarantine period on those returning late for the semester.
We also recommend that you get a COVID test within 72 hours before returning to campus. In combination with our existing preventative measure of requiring face coverings indoors, pre-travel testing and this quiet period will help ensure that we continue to protect all members of the Willamette and PNCA communities once everyone returns to campus after the break.
For Staff: Division and department heads should communicate with their teams about expectations for office staffing from January 3 through 16, and where appropriate for job duties, to encourage staff to work remotely.
As President Thorsett noted in his message to the community, we strongly recommend getting your COVID booster shot. Early evidence indicates that the booster provides broad protection against Omicron. We anticipate that we will require boosters for Fall 2022, and encourage everyone who is able to get their booster as you become eligible.
The easiest way to schedule booster and testing appointments prior to your return to campus is to look up locations on the Oregon Health Authority Vaccine and Testing Services Finder at https://getvaccinated.oregon.gov/#/locator or through the CDC’s vaccine finder site: https://www.vaccines.gov/.
Ahead of gatherings with family and friends in the coming weeks, we echo President Thorsett’s message from yesterday in urging you to socially distance and mask up around those who may be immunocompromised or unvaccinated.
Please stay safe and take care of yourselves and others, and have a relaxing holiday break.
COVID Advisory Team