Since the onset of COVID, EWU has based its responses on the latest available health data and recommendations from the CDC and Spokane Regional Health District as well as directives from Gov. Inslee. Currently, vaccination rates in our community are strong, and as we have moved through the winter quarter and the first half of the spring semester, we have seen case rates on campus continuing to fall to levels that are currently near zero.
As you know, the Governor has moved up the date for ending the statewide mask mandate, to March 11, 2022 at 11:59pm. This decision aligns Washington with California and Oregon and presents Eastern with another important transitional moment. Therefore, Eastern Washington University will make masks optional on its campuses starting March 12, 2022.
This decision is not only based on the health data available, but includes input from our campus community, and recommendations from local and state health agencies and the CDC. The majority of Eastern faculty, staff and students who completed the university’s survey on this matter also favored the March 12 date.
This change will include classrooms, academic and business buildings, and residence halls on the Cheney campus and the Catalyst building in Spokane. On the EWU Spokane campus shared with Washington State University, we will follow their protocols for optional masking, and masks will still be required on public transportation (STA) and in clinical and some other specialized settings.
We know that, while some will approach March 12 with relief that the spread of COVID has slowed to the point where masks can be removed, others remain concerned about the impact of this decision and are experiencing anxiety due to health concerns for themselves and/or family members. We ask that all of our community members do what they can to give each other grace. Given all that we have experienced since March 2020, we are hopeful that those who continue to mask and take additional safety measures will feel supported by those around them. Likewise, for those that opt to discontinue wearing masks, we hope you will feel welcome throughout campus and continue to do what you can to help others be and feel safe in this transitional period.
While a personal decision, vaccinations remain the most important tool to respond to this virus; they are safe, effective, and free. Those who are not fully vaccinated and boosted are encouraged to seek them out as soon as possible. The state’s Vaccine Locator tool can help find a vaccine provider nearby simply by entering a ZIP code.EWU will continue to provide some limited testing for students and employees.
As an EWU community, please be respectful and consider where you can honor each other in this moment as we did when we returned to offices last summer and to classrooms in the fall. Perhaps this means wearing a mask during a meeting or in a classroom when someone asks. Or maybe it means sitting further away from others in your class who have health concerns when you choose not to wear your mask. And it may mean offering to have a Zoom meeting with someone you know that has health concerns so they don’t have to ask you. Some students and staff members will continue to wear masks after the mandate is lifted and we request that each individual’s choice be respected as masks and distancing are still important tools in this phase of the pandemic.
We continue to be grateful for the community we have and for those that work hard every day to give grace and compassion and, ultimately, strengthen our community. Thank you for doing your part as we move forward together.
David May, interim President