We cannot emphasize enough that there is nothing more important than the safety, health, and well-being of our university community. We have made every decision with this core principle in mind, and with guidance every step of the way from our infectious disease experts at the School of Medicine. Our plan is informed by science. We have made decisions based on all available data, and we will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as it develops in the weeks and months ahead.

Chancellor Andrew D. Martin and Provost Beverly Wendland
Read full message to Danforth Campus community

About this Plan


Since March 2020, university leaders have been tasked with making numerous significant and often difficult decisions. In the early weeks of the pandemic, we established a set of guiding principles to inform our path forward. These are:

  • The safety, security and well-being of all people is one of our most deeply held values. 
  • We are a community grounded in our mission — which is to utilize our distinction in education, research and patient care to improve lives in service of the greater good. 
  • Our mission calls us to enhance lives, not just on campus, but also throughout the St. Louis region and around the world. 
  • It is paramount that we uplift the values of diversity, equity and inclusion during this critical time, as we consider how this crisis affects individuals from varying backgrounds and with varying levels of severity. 
  • We are committed to accountability and transparency. Even if we don’t know the answers — or if the answers are difficult to accept — we will always communicate our decisions along with our rationale. 
  • We must uplift the value of careful stewardship and sustainability of the university’s resources and of our world — those resources that many in our community, both past and present, have entrusted into our care. 

Learn more about our guiding principles on Chancellor Martin’s blog


To guide high-level decision-making, Chancellor Martin appointed a Fall Planning Committee, which has been primarily focused on the educational mission of the university, exploring a number of scenarios to inform planning in critical areas including academic calendars, curriculum, residential life and resource management. 

The Fall Planning Committee formed several standards committees and working groups to make recommendations in key areas of academics, research and campus life, all with an emphasis on how to prioritize the health, safety and wellness of our university community. 

The Fall Planning Committee presented its recommendations to Chancellor Martin in July. This plan reflects the culmination of those efforts.

Learn more about fall planning

Health & Safety


Members of our community must follow the requirements for being on campus fully and consistently. The WashU Community Pledge and Policy Acknowledgment for Students outlines current public health requirements, along with policies that will apply to all undergraduate, graduate and professional students. All students will be required to complete online public health training and acknowledge the Pledge through a Canvas module. More information, including a link to the required training and the Pledge, will be shared with students soon. 

Faculty and staff must complete required training and a pledge in Learn@Work

In the event that any individual fails to complete the training and pledge, they are not permitted onto campus and disciplinary action may be taken.


Note: Research activity levels are indicated by a separate color-coded system and are not directly tied to the university alert level. To see current status of different types of research activities, and to learn more about the research activity level system, please visit the Guidance for Researchers on COVID-19 page on the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research website.

The university will operate under an alert level system that uses four levels to indicate the severity of COVID-19 transmission in the St. Louis region and/or on campus. These levels will determine the nature of campus operations.


We will continually monitor conditions and will adjust our alert level as the circumstances require. Factors that could raise or lower the alert level include: Transmission rates, accessibility to testing, availability of personal protective equipment, contact tracing capabilities, capacity of health care systems, and rate of compliance with public health requirements, both on- and off-campus. We also must consider the effectiveness of our ability to successfully manage isolation and quarantine housing and individual compliance with university directives not to leave designated isolation or quarantine spaces.

A shift to Very High Alert (Red) would likely mean a need to limit activity on campus and potentially to significantly reduce campus density. If this were to occur, we would take care to provide as much advance notice as possible to students, faculty and staff in order to make necessary arrangements for travel or other needs for their individual situations.


A COVID Monitoring Team has been established to oversee the implementation of the alert level system, with guidance from infectious diseases experts at the School of Medicine. The team, which includes campus leaders in medicine, public health, emergency management and logistics, will coordinate the collection and review of data related to COVID-19 prevalence in the university and St. Louis communities and recommend the appropriate level of campus operations based on current conditions.


In order to protect the safety, health, and well-being of our university community, we are requiring all students, faculty, staff, and approved visitors to take the following actions.


Anyone physically present on campus must wear a mask that fully covers their mouth and nose at all times, unless they are alone in an individual closed office space or are outside and able to keep at least six feet between themselves and other people they do not live with. Please see the CDC website for information about allowable masks, including how to wear them properly. This includes washing your hands before putting on your mask putting it over your nose and mouth and securing it under your chin, and making sure it fits snugly against the side of your face while allowing you to breathe easily.

Masks may be removed while eating or drinking in spaces on campus where eating and drinking are usually allowed, as long as there are at least six feet of physical distance or a physical barrier to create separation between other people who do not live together. Eating outdoors is strongly encouraged whenever possible. See mask requirements for the Danforth Campus.


Maintain at least six feet of separation from other people at all times in all indoor and outdoor campus environments. Exceptions will be made for students sharing suites and apartments, and other individuals who share a household. There also may be a small number of exceptions to accommodate close work in certain lab and studio settings. In these environments, masks will be required and all other public health requirements will be followed as closely as possible.

The most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to ALWAYS wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible. 


All students, faculty and staff must complete a daily self-screening to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 before coming to campus. The self-screening tool is available at screening.wustl.edu.

Individuals living in residential housing must complete a daily self-screening before leaving their residence hall room. Anyone showing symptoms or otherwise failing the daily screen will be required to stay home and contact university health services (Habif Health and Wellness Center for students and Occupational Health for employees) for further instructions.


All members of the university community must take extra care to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, or after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based disinfectant or hand sanitizer can be used if soap and water are not available. Everyone must also follow specified procedures for cleaning and disinfecting rooms, offices and common areas.


Any individual who consistently fails or willfully refuses to meet these requirements may be prohibited from being on campus and may face further disciplinary action. All students who are living on campus in residential housing, or participating in on-campus classes or activities will be required to pledge to adhere to these principles and indicate they understand the consequences – which could range from loss of privileges to be present on campus or removal from on-campus housing up to suspension or expulsion from the university – if they do not follow the requirements. Faculty and staff also must complete mandatory training through Learn@Work and may be subject to disciplinary action if they do not adhere to all requirements.

Learn more about health and safety requirements


The university will implement a campuswide Integrated Disinfectant Plan based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, the American College Health Association, and infectious disease experts at the School of Medicine. With new protocols in place, our cleaning and sanitation activities will increase in frequency and scope for most areas. 

Disinfectants recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be used for cleaning and sanitization, and signage will be prominently displayed in campus spaces to clearly state the cleaning protocols for individual areas. 

Hand sanitizer stations also will be located throughout campus buildings.


University Facilities will implement a variety of indoor air quality strategies to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 transmission. These include increasing fresh air supply and implementing MERV-13 filtration. Each building is being reviewed, and the appropriate strategies are being deployed based upon the system design.  

COVID-19 Monitoring & Containment


Students are asked to significantly limit their interactions with others in the 14 days prior to departing for St. Louis for the start of the fall semester. This includes staying at home as much as possible, washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask if you must be in contact with anyone outside your home, and keeping at least six feet of distance between yourself and others outside of your family. Please monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and if they develop, seek medical advice before coming to St. Louis. Do not come to campus if you have symptoms of COVID-19.


We provided free, highly accurate COVID-19 testing administered by university medical professionals for all Danforth Campus students at the start of the fall semester (entry testing). After this initial round of testing at the start of the semester, all undergraduate students living in the St. Louis region are required to complete a university-provided COVID-19 test every two weeks for the duration of the fall semester. In addition, we will provide testing for all students, faculty and staff who develop symptoms of COVID-19 at any time during the fall semester.

We strongly encourage all students, faculty and staff who develop symptoms of COVID-19 to use university testing services. In the event that a student, faculty or staff member seeks testing at a non-university site, they must report all results (whether positive or negative) to the university.

Visit the COVID-19 testing page for more information.



All students, faculty and staff must visit screening.wustl.edu daily to complete the assessment before coming to campus or leaving their room in residential housing.


In coordination with the St. Louis City and County Departments of Health, Washington University Occupational Health and Habif Health and Wellness Center will help conduct contact tracing and notification within the university community for COVID-positive individuals and their close contacts, if affiliated with the university. See more details about contact tracing


The university will provide isolation housing for students who test positive unless they are able to isolate in an off-campus location. The university will provide quarantine housing for students who have been directed to quarantine due to exposure, pending test results or other circumstances.

The university will conduct follow-up procedures for all students, faculty and staff to ensure that they are medically cleared before returning to campus following a positive test. The university will provide meals and other essential services – including cleaning – to meet needs of students who are quarantined or isolated on- or off-campus. The amount of time students must remain in quarantine or isolation will be determined by current CDC guidelines.


All students, faculty and staff who are physically present on campus will be required to receive an influenza vaccine. Details about the vaccination requirement and the process for obtaining the vaccine will be shared directly with the university community. Flu vaccines will be provided free of charge.


While it is our greatest hope that all students, faculty and staff will remain safe and healthy, given the high transmission rate of COVID-19 locally and nationally, we will have cases reported within our community. When a member of the university community tests positive, is presumed positive or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 (see CDC guidelines on exposure), that individual must report this information to Habif Health and Wellness Center (students) or Occupational Health (employees). 

Members of the university community should respect the privacy of their fellow colleagues and peers and avoid sharing another person’s confidential health information with others. The university has obligations under HIPAA, FERPA, ADA and other federal and state laws, and, depending upon the circumstances, such disclosures may constitute a violation of these laws and University policy. 

A dashboard is available with information about testing, positive cases and percent positive. The dashboard is updated every Monday and Thursday. 

Learn more about reporting and response to COVID-positive cases or exposure on the Danforth Campus.




In order to accommodate a slow and deliberate return to campus, we are making changes to our academic calendar, to allow for a phased approach to bringing students and faculty back to the Danforth Campus. To accomplish this, we will have a staggered academic calendar, with individual schools beginning the fall and spring semesters on different dates. 

See 2020-21 academic calendar


An additional five minutes of passing time is being added between all synchronous classes (in person and remote) to help reduce congestion in entering and exiting buildings and allow time for cleaning of classroom spaces, as well as for students to move between remote and in-person learning locations. In addition, one-way entrances and exits will be designated in many locations to further avoid congestion.


Academic coursework will be delivered in a variety of formats with some courses being either predominantly online or in-person, and others in a hybrid format, with learning offered both in the classroom and remotely to serve students regardless of whether they are able to be on campus. 

Standards of content and quality will be in place for all courses, including a structured digital presence on Canvas, digitized course content, digital submission of assignments and virtual office hours. All courses will be designed with the capacity to pivot to fully remote learning with minimal disruption.

Course details, including information about the anticipated delivery format, will be available in the Course Listings catalog. Guidance on interpreting the information in Course listings can be found on the University Registrar’s website.


Washington University is a “hybrid” school in that the university is offering both in person and online courses. The immigration rules and government agencies’ interpretations of the rules have changed during the COVID-19 outbreak and could change again.

The university will work diligently to keep international students informed of any changes to requirements to maintain their visa status. More information is available on the Office for International Students and Scholars website.


In order to ensure that students can fully participate in online classes, all students will be required to have a computer that meets specified standards. The university will provide assistance to undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to ensure they have access to computers and necessary internet bandwidth capacity. Graduate, professional and University College students with financial need should check with their individual programs. In addition, students can visit the Tech Den to learn about technology to meet their academic needs.


The university will take a number of steps to provide financial support to students in light of changes that will be in place during the fall semester.

  • Student fees for dining and the housing single room rate will be reduced to reflect the shorter fall semester with final exams being conducted remotely over winter break. 
  • Should the university decide that all students should return to their primary residence during the course of a semester as a result of the pandemic or other emergency, the university would provide a prorated refund of room costs to students who were living in Residential Life housing. Students receiving full financial aid would also be eligible for this prorated university housing refund to provide additional support if they are required to return to their primary residence. Students enrolled in meal plans would receive a refund of any unused meal points.
  • If this were to occur, the university would offer students the ability to seek an exception to remain in residence on campus on a case-by-case basis if international travel restrictions or other significant extenuating circumstances prevent them from returning home.  
  • For undergraduate students and families whose financial situations have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Student Financial Services is available to discuss assistance that may be available. Graduate and University College students should contact their respective deans’ offices for assistance.
  • The Crisis Response Fund will open for applications from Washington University undergraduate, graduate and professional students on September 1, 2020. Expenses for unexpected emergency costs in the following categories will be eligible for support: housing, utilities, groceries, medicine and unreimbursed co-pays for physical or mental health services. All students will receive an email notification with additional details and instructions on how to apply when the Fund opens. 
  • The university will ensure that all undergraduate students have access to a computer. Students can visit the Tech Den to learn about technology to meet their academic needs.

Residential Life Housing & Dining


The American College Health Association has recommended placing all students in single bedrooms. This will reduce our on-campus residential density to no more than 65% of normal capacity. 

Students are asked to limit the amount of personal belongings they bring to campus to allow for easier packing and moving out in the event that the university moves to alternate operations and Residential Life housing is no longer available, except to students who receive exception approvals to stay.


In order to reduce the density of our Residential Life properties, some students who were expecting to live in Residential Life housing during the fall semester will not be able to do so. 

Priorities will be set as follows:

  • We will guarantee housing on campus for all first-year students on the South 40. 
  • Sophomores with existing housing contracts for the 2020-21 academic year are guaranteed housing. Sophomores will be assigned on the South 40, in limited numbers, while most will be placed on the North Side, and in apartments near campus. 
  • Juniors and seniors who wish to request housing through Residential Life may do so through a special housing selection process. Priority will be given to those juniors and seniors with special circumstances. More information about this process will be provided by Residential Life.
    • Special circumstances could potentially include students who receive housing accommodations for medical and health reasons, international students who are unable to return to their permanent residences, and other considerations such as a student’s current financial circumstances, the safety of a student’s home situation, or other individual situations where it is determined that the only reasonable option for a student is for them to return to campus housing. 
  • In almost all cases, we anticipate that juniors and seniors will be required to live off-campus.   

We will review cases and make decisions in a way that prioritizes support for our most vulnerable students. 

The decision to reduce the density of our campus housing means there will be some juniors and seniors who will no longer be eligible for residential life housing who will either have to study from home, or seek housing elsewhere. An active waitlist for campus housing will be available through the start of the fall semester and every effort will be made to assign as many students as possible from the waitlist to available housing options.


To manage the need to reduce density and provide students with single-room living options, the Office of Residential Life has secured approximately 450 additional beds near campus. These units will be assigned directly by the Office of Residential Life and they are located in apartments near campus, Everly on the Loop, and the Moonrise Hotel. All of these options are fully furnished and shuttle service will be available to and from campus.


Any sophomore who previously submitted a housing contract and who is now no longer interested in a Residential Life assignment should cancel their housing contract by 5 p.m. CDT August 5. Housing assignments for those with existing contracts who do not cancel by August 5 will be finalized by August 24. Following the release of assignments, those students will have until 5 p.m. CDT on August 31 to cancel their housing contract without penalty.


The university is reserving beds on campus to use as isolation housing for all COVID-positive students. To contain the spread of COVID-19 in our community, COVID-positive students must have a space where they can recover comfortably without coming into contact with other people in our community. Students in isolation housing will be monitored by staff from the Habif Health and Wellness Center. We will ensure they have meals delivered and that they do not need to leave the isolation or quarantine space while they recover. In many cases, COVID-positive students will be asked to share apartments with other COVID-positive students while they recover. 

In addition, more than 150 quarantine spaces on campus will be available to students who are not able to quarantine in their existing single rooms due to shared bathrooms or other considerations. If additional capacity is needed, we will pursue other available options, which we have already tentatively identified. Quarantine and isolation housing will be available to all students, regardless of whether they have an existing Residential Life contract.



Residence hall room capacity is limited to the number of people who can be present while maintaining physical distance of at least six feet between individuals. Only students who reside in the same hall may visit other students’ rooms in that hall. Masks must be worn at all times if more than one person is in a room. Students are highly encouraged to socialize outdoors whenever possible, always adhering to public health requirements regarding masks and physical distancing.


Residence hall lounges, study rooms, kitchens and other common spaces will be reconfigured and marked to allow for physical distancing. In some cases, furniture will be moved or removed entirely to create more space.  


To help ensure the safety of our residential communities, our guest policies will be changed for the fall semester. Residential Life properties will only be accessible to the students who live there and the staff who work there. Guests, including those who live in other residential spaces on campus, will not be permitted for the foreseeable future. This policy and others will be evaluated as needed throughout the course of the coming year.



Campus dining has been redesigned to reduce seating and add table dividers in spaces where physical distancing will not be possible. Grab-and-go options have been greatly expanded. Buffets and self-service areas have been eliminated. Changes will be implemented to allow fewer people to be present in dining locations at the same time and to reduce contamination. 

Dining locations also will have “hospitality coordinators” present to help ensure guests are able to follow all requirements and guidelines, and to answer any questions.


For a current list of dining locations that will be open during the fall semester, along with their hours and other information, visit the Dining Services website.

Campus Spaces


All campus rooms and facilities will be reconfigured to allow for physical distancing. In many cases, furniture will be moved or removed entirely to create more space. Where physical distancing cannot be ensured, plastic partitions or barriers will be installed as additional protection. Staff schedules will be staggered to reduce population density in buildings.


All campus buildings are accessible only by card swipe with a valid university ID. Students, faculty and staff can swipe into most campus buildings every day from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. In addition, they can swipe into their designated building(s) at any time. These include assigned residence halls for students, and office- or school-specific buildings for faculty and staff. Limits on building capacity for some campus buildings are in effect. One-way entrances and exits have been designated in a few locations to avoid congestion. Access to buildings or labs for students, faculty and staff may be requested by a department representative or advisor by contacting Card Access.


Physical distancing guidelines will be posted throughout outdoor campus spaces, with visual cues to indicate six feet of separation. Outdoor furniture will be moved or stored where needed to ensure physical distancing. Signage will direct pedestrian and bicycle traffic to encourage keeping to the right on pathways and one-way foot traffic on narrow pathways.

Two large tents will be installed on campus to increase informal campus capacity for safer outdoor interactions and dining. More than 600 chairs also have been added throughout the campus to provide additional outdoor seating options.

Some large outdoor spaces, including parking garages and other parking structures, may also be repurposed to accommodate a variety of student uses.


At least 1,000 “Cubbies” will be added to campus. These individual units provide private space for one person to sit to attend an online class, read, study or eat. Cubbies will be available across campus, with some large reception venues and some classrooms converted into space to accommodate this type of seating. This will provide a physically distanced option for individuals to share common spaces while maintaining adherence to health and safety requirements. Cleaning supplies will be available for users to wipe down Cubbies before use.

Events & Activities


The ability of students to participate in activities, events, fitness and other programs is an important component of the Washington University experience. We must prioritize safety above all else, and we will implement significant changes to all on-campus events and activities in the fall.



All requests from student clubs and groups to hold indoor meetings of any size or outdoor events of greater than 10 people will require approval through Campus Life.


Indoor gatherings are generally discouraged and in most cases will not be allowed. With approval, up to 10 people may be permitted to attend an outdoor event, with proper precautions in place to ensure physical distancing. All participants will be required to wear a mask at all times while indoors. All events with more than 10 people must be held online. (This number was updated in November based on recent regional guidance.)



Students arriving to campus will be spread out over several days, instead of having all students arrive in a condensed period of time. This will limit the number of people moving in on any single day to a set amount across all of our residential communities.


All large orientation events have been canceled and content will be delivered in small groups or online. Information and instructions about changes to campus due to COVID-19 will be incorporated into orientation materials.



All fall varsity and club sports were canceled on July 22, 2020. While there may be some team and individual workouts for students who are here, this will be done in small groups following appropriate public health guidelines. 


The Sumers Recreation Center and South 40 Fitness Center will follow all relevant and current safety guidelines related to workout facilities, which include reduced density, wearing of masks, physical distancing and enhanced cleaning procedures. It is a distinct possibility that both facilities will be closed in the fall semester based on public health guidelines for the use of gyms. If circumstances permit them to be open, capacity will be strictly limited. 

The university will be working to increase safe outdoor recreation programming. The status of all facilities is subject to change.

Faculty & Staff


All Danforth Campus units have been directed to have faculty and staff return to work only in cases where their physical presence is required to complete their duties. All other employees will continue to work remotely. 

All unit plans for returning to campus must be approved by the Provost or Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Administrative Officer based on a careful review of the need for staff to be on campus and compliance with physical distancing and other public health requirements. Staggered staff arrangements are encouraged.


Human Resources policies have been adjusted to encourage telecommuting and flexible work hours. See Flexible Work Arrangement Policy on the Human Resources website.


For employees who are physically present on campus, in-person meetings should not be held indoors. Even if people are physically on campus, they should continue to conduct meetings via Zoom, phone or other virtual platforms.

Travel & Visitors


All non-essential university-sponsored travel, including all student group travel, is suspended until further notice. Requests to engage in essential university-sponsored travel must be approved by the chancellor or provost, a dean, executive vice chancellor or vice chancellor. All approved essential travel must be registered here. All travel restrictions are subject to change based on travel conditions and public health guidance. Most student group travel will be considered “non essential” for the foreseeable future.

See additional information about travel.


Students who travel outside of the St. Louis region for Thanksgiving break are strongly encouraged not to return to campus and should complete their courses remotely. For students who choose to go home for Thanksgiving and do not return to campus, any unused meal points will roll over to the spring semester but housing will not be refunded. See September 29 message to students and families for more information.


Students, faculty and staff must follow orders and guidelines that are in place in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and other local jurisdictions. Members of the university community are strongly encouraged to limit their off-campus activities as much as possible to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure.


Only visitors whose presence on campus for mission-critical purposes will be allowed on campus. Mission-critical visitors include:

  • Visitors approved for mission-critical research and scholarship activities (for Danforth Campus guidance, see the Visitors for Research page on the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research website)
  • Finalists for faculty and/or leadership positions
  • Families of current students for drop-off or pick-up only
  • Vendors and consultants hired for mission-critical university work
  • Others depending on circumstances and approval

Requests for permission to bring visitors on campus will be reviewed and approved through a university process. 

Approved, mission-critical visitors who come to campus must follow all health requirements, including wearing a mask, physical distancing and enhanced personal hygiene and hand-washing. A screening process for approved visitors will be implemented to make sure they are checking for symptoms before coming to campus.

Learn More & Share Feedback


Visit the FAQ page on this website for the latest information and updates.


Our COVID-19 information hotline is available Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Call 314-935-8300 or 888-234-2863 and choose from the available menu options.

You also can email questions to covidquestions@wustl.edu.

To read this plan on one long page, click here.