WSU introduces new COVID-19 restrictions

No food at events; quality respirator masks encouraged

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen reporter

WSU leadership announced a series of changes to campus operations on Jan. 14, announcing that on-campus events, including WSU Athletic events, will not serve food because of the surging spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant.

“We could be in for a bumpy couple of weeks as omicron surges through our classrooms and campuses across the state,” said Phil Weiler, WSU vice president for marketing and communications.

By making these changes at the start of the semester, WSU leadership hopes to reduce transmission of the virus and preserve an in-person learning experience for students, he said.

As part of their response, WSU leadership encouraged all students, faculty and staff to acquire and wear respirator masks such as KN95 or KF94 masks, according to a WSU Insider article.

Because WSU had a significant stockpile of KN95 masks, Weiler said WSU administration decided it was time to distribute that stockpile to all five university campuses across the state.

The masks will be available in administrative offices across the WSU system, according to the university’s website.

WSU is distributing masks in order to preserve the stated goal of a “robust in-person experience,” Weiler said.

“We recognize there’s as much learning that takes place out of the classroom as in the classroom,” he said. “So we want to continue to have opportunities for students to gather.”

As part of their Jan. 14 announcement, some university services may need to temporarily close or alter their hours because of potential staff shortages caused by COVID-19, WSU President Kirk Schulz said in a message.

WSU closely works with the Whitman County Health Department and assists the county with contact tracing, Weiler said.

Through this partnership, he said that university officials can better understand the spread of COVID-19 in the Pullman community.

“I think it’s important to know that we fully expect this to be pretty short-lived,” Weiler said. “Folks in the northeast of the United States have already seen COVID-19 infection rates drop precipitously.”

He said that over 90% of students, faculty members and staff are vaccinated; many employees have received the booster. 

Whitman County’s COVID-19 daily infection rate was at an all-time high the first week of January, according to a Daily Evergreen article.

“[COVID-19] is not something to take lightly. We need to do everything we can to avoid contracting the illness,” Weiler said.