Dear Danforth Campus community,
We are monitoring regional and national trends closely in order to make decisions about the steps we must take in order to keep our community healthy and safe. We urge all members of our community – students, faculty and staff – to continue to follow all public health requirements and pay particular attention in the weeks ahead to following safety guidance specific to the Thanksgiving holiday. Do not gather with groups of people not in your household, wear a mask, and practice physical distancing and personal hygiene. If you engage in behavior that puts you at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, you should self-quarantine for 14 days before coming to campus.
At this time, based on the increasingly troubling conditions in the St. Louis region, we are adjusting our strategy for Thanksgiving travel for our undergraduate students. This has not been an easy decision for us and we understand that this will present some of our students and families with a difficult decision as well. The safety of our community has always been our highest priority and is the reason for this change.
- We continue to strongly advise all Danforth Campus undergraduate students who wish to complete the fall semester in person to stay in St. Louis and avoid gatherings with people outside your home over the Thanksgiving Break (November 26 through November 29). Because of the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission due to personal interactions around the holiday, undergraduate students who choose to travel more than 60 miles outside of the St. Louis region will not be allowed to return to campus for the remainder of the fall semester. This applies to undergraduate students because of the higher prevalence of COVID-19 cases among this population, as well as the elevated risk for transmission among undergraduate students.
- Students who are living in Residential Life housing should take with you any belongings that you may need before the start of the spring semester. You are welcome to leave items in the residence halls if you wish.
- All undergraduate students must complete a Thanksgiving Break Travel Commitment before Friday, November 20. This commitment indicates that you understand that if you travel outside of the region, you will not return to campus, and that you will abide by all public health requirements, whether or not you are leaving the region for the break.
- Undergraduate students who indicate they are traveling outside the region, as well as those who do not complete the commitment form mentioned above, will have their campus swipe access turned off until the start of the spring semester.
- As a reminder, arrangements have been made to provide additional programming for students who are in St. Louis over the holiday. We are planning activities over the Thanksgiving Break, but unfortunately, given the current public health guidance in St. Louis County, previously announced in-person programming will be replaced with a virtual programming model.
- Undergraduate students will receive a separate communication from Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Rob Wild with more details, including information about additional surveillance testing that will be available for students before Thanksgiving Break.
We realize this change may create challenges for those of you who have already made travel plans, and we regret that this may be difficult for some of you. However, we must prioritize the health, safety and well-being of our community, and given the rapid turn of events with our regional COVID-19 statistics, we would be remiss not to rethink our approach at this time. We continue to follow regional developments closely, and our local public health authorities are doing the same. We stand ready to shift our strategy as circumstances and public health guidance and directives require. We will keep you informed if there are any updates to our plans for the weeks ahead.
We know the current environment is restrictive and difficult for all of us. But there is room for optimism as we look toward spring. With any pandemic there is a curve. While trends are moving in the wrong direction now, it is a curve, and there will eventually be a decrease in cases. We are hopeful that better days are ahead, particularly since treatments for COVID-19 continue to be developed and, as we’ve seen this week, researchers are making progress in their work on vaccines. We also know this situation is affecting everyone differently. We encourage students who need additional support to call Habif Health and Wellness Center at 314-935-6695 and faculty and staff to contact the university’s employee assistance program, Work-Life Solutions.
We remain grateful for your support and commitment to protecting our Washington University community. It is reassuring to know that we are all in this together.
Andrew D. Martin
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs