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Washington State University
Faculty Senate Constituent Concerns

Written policy on non vaccine compliance

I understand that Oct 4th is the last day for faculty, staff, and students to finish their vaccine regimen. To continue operations with potential employee loss after Oct 18, unit leadership needs written policies that include

1) Classified Staff. Since these staff members are under a collective bargaining agreement, will this be different than AP Staff? What will happen if they have not either been vaccinated or granted an exemption by this date

2) Undergraduate students who are also WSU time slip employees.

3) Career track faculty

4) Tenure track faculty

5) Graduate students. Will grad TAs lose tuition waivers?

We need a clear written policy in order to plan.
Thank you.

Greg Crouch, Department of Chemistry

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Updates on COVID precautions

I appreciate the prior responses from administration. However, I and many of my colleagues and students are wondering where are the updates on WSU COVID vax rates and response rates as the deadline for reporting status for faculty, staff and students has passed? The last update seems to have been late Aug, and I have noticed the Whitman county COVID infection rates are rising precipitously, with overall vax rates for the county not really changed. Where does WSU stand?

Also, the UW has really prepared well for the quarter. They have a UW COVID dashboard, ongoing testing through the Husky Testing program, some schools and programs provide remote accommodations this quarter for immunocompromised individuals and people with unvaccinated children. The UW has made all of these things happen. Where does WSU administration stand at this point? I had understood there was some discussion of a dashboard being reinstated? Is anyone tracking and reporting positive cases on campus?

 

-Susan Collins, Psychology

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Concerns about salary being offered permanent employees in Spokane

We have been trying to hire research staff. As everyone has heard, Spokane is getting very expensive. I was shocked to see the salary we were approved to offer, which was $31k for a research study assistant position for a candidate who has a bachelor’s and is 3 years postbacc (but had not had prior research experience). It was just about 300% the poverty level in Spokane (which is a level where benefits could even start kicking in). We were able to get up to $34k, but that’s not a lot better, and we have learned our offers are just not competitive other academic institutions.

As a point of comparison, in Cheney WA where I live, the McDonalds has a sign outside that says “$14.00/hr crew team member, including minors.” That is reiterated here on indeed.com: https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=Part%20Time%20McDonalds%20Crew%20Member%20%2420%2C000&l=cheney%20wa&vjk=98d49cf9724db5d8. That means the Cheney McDonalds is hiring minors who could make a yearly salary of only 5k less** than we are offering. In Cheney. High school students. Working the line in fast food.

I agree McDonalds should finally pay people a livable wage for the hard work they do. But so should we.

And our job requires a bachelor’s degree and a lot of skill managing complex psychological surveys, data collection, protection of data integrity and confidentiality, videoconferencing, computer equipment, payments to participants.

I talked to HR and they said it would be best to go to the faculty senate to discuss changes to be made. I know this isn’t about faculty issues per se. But the thing is, if we are talking about being a land-grant institution that cares about communities, we cannot have faculty making that much more than our staff? People need a livable wage, and WSU is not offering research staff a livable wage at the current levels we keep seeing — or we have to push really really hard to get to a remotely doable wage for our staff.

**I know we also offer benefits, but people need money to pay their bills, too. Retirement and health care are important, but do not fix that fundamental issue of needing salary that can pay bills right now.

 

-Susan Collins, Psychology

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Constituent Concern: Communication from Central Administration

Faculty and staff receive numerous email communications from the central administration regarding COVID-19 policies, return to work policies, memoranda regarding instruction, and the like. Unfortunately, I have found many of these communications to be poorly written and/or organized, both in terms of the email text and associated attachments, and many contain links that are either broken or that point to pages that have nothing to do with the matter at hand.

Taking the time to wade through the avalanche of communications is time consuming, and it is especially frustrating when these communications do not convey important information in a cogent matter. I ask that the administration take the time and care to check the accuracy of all communications sent to faculty, staff, and students, ensuring that links point to the content they are intended to point to, and that critical information is conveyed more clearly rather than with some vague statement(s) that point(s) to a link to follow for further instructions or information.

I use the Provost’s memorandum on fall 2021 instruction (dated 10 August 2021) as an example.

1. Faculty who wish to obtain an exception to the F2F default teaching modality can claim a medical exception. The memo provides information (page 2, item #1) on HR processes, and a link to this site: https://hrs.wsu.edu/covid-19/. If you navigate to this site, it is not clear where you need to look or what you need to do in order to obtain the medical exception. There is a small box outlined in yellow with a link to HRS Disability Services, and this appears to be where faculty need to navigate to check on the medical exception. I’ve had several faculty tell me that they cannot find the information necessary to complete a medical exception, so I’ve had to take time out of my day to help them navigate this process. This is both frustrating and an inefficient use of my time. It really would not take much effort or thought to have a very specific section on the HRS page for medical exceptions (e.g., “Please Click Here for Medical Exceptions as Outlined in the Provost’s Memorandum”, set off from the rest of the generic HRS page so that faculty and staff can easily navigate to the appropriate site). One needs to navigate through 2 additional links to find the necessary form! This is highly inefficient.

2. Faculty who choose option #2, the designated SO (some online) option of delivery, must conduct at least 25% instruction F2F and meet 1 of 4 different avenues to be in NWCCU compliance. This is noted on page 3 of the memo. If one were to choose option 2 or 3, going through AOI, there are further notes to “Instructions will be sent out by AOI shortly on how to request this credential” – this credential is the remote instruction certificate through Badgr. I do not recall seeing any information from either AOI or Badgr. As of this writing, at least 1 of my faculty members has informed me that there are no available trainings, but that AOI intends to have one in September and one in October. That is a bit late in the game — it’s August 30, a week after the start of the semester, and the remote instruction is supposed to be completed by August 2021.

3. Related to #2, there is a link in the Provost’s memo to trainings from AOI (item 3 on page 3 of the memo) – the link takes you here: https://li.wsu.edu/trainings-workshops-tutorials/workshop-schedule/. Similar to the link to HRS for medical exceptions noted in #1 above, it is not clear what one must do or where to look for courses / trainings that satisfy the so-called remote instruction credential. You have to dig a little further on the page to find the correct information, and that is another click away. Once again, it would not be that difficult or too much to ask to have a very clear section that is highlighted so that faculty can easily navigate to find the appropriate information, preferably in a single click.

I submit this information both as a concern of my own and as a Faculty Senator who is representing constituents on the Spokane campus.

In summary, much of the information coming from the central administration lacks clarity. We must have information presented to us both in a timely manner and in a cogent format that allows us to navigate to the appropriate place easily and quickly. We’re all intelligent people, and we know how to find information. The fact that so many of us have struggled and continue to struggle with messaging from our administration is both unfortunate and unnecessary, it just detracts from the work we all want to do and that we are paid to do.

Glen Duncan, Professor and Chair, NEP

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Constituent Concern: COVID 19 Budget Issues and Priorities

Today VP of Finance and Admin, Stacy Pearson, circulated a letter concerning budget stress due to COVID 19 and subsequent budget priorities. It seems unbelievable that during this crisis WSU administration elected to shift $2,000,000 from student revenue to support the football program. Then our new football coach, the highest paid state employee at about $3,200,000 annually, broadcast to the nation that he did not intend to get vaccinated for personal reasons — a statement clearly contrary to the best interests of WSU. Perhaps the faculty senate could encourage the administration to (1) revisit the football budget in light of recent developments, and (2) explore details of the head coach’s employment contract to determine if termination or other administrative action is possible. If WSU can terminate or demote a provost after only six weeks, surely we can do the same with a football coach, especially with an eye toward recouping the head coach’s obscene salary.

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Notice: FacSen Chair Update on Vaccination Data

Dear Colleagues — I am sharing the latest vaccination data for the WSU system. The denominator for total proportions is not available yet, but for the Pullman campus 60-70% of students are likely accounted for with these numbers. For example, if we have as many as 20,000 students in Pullman this semester, then 66% of students are represented in the table below. It will be another week or two before tallies are complete and vaccination status is completed. WSU will actively engage with students who declared personal exemptions to remind them that they need to get vaccinated.

For those who have reported, >90% are reporting that vaccination is complete (system-wide). Even if all undeclared students claim exemptions moving forward (a very unlikely scenario), we will still have a much higher vaccination compliance than the state overall and certainly for some of the counties where our campuses are located. Please recall that students have to provide documentation for their vaccination status and barring evidence for widespread fraud, these numbers should come with high confidence.

Student Tally as of 26 Aug 2021
Campus Vaccinated / Medical / Religious / Personal / Total
Everett – 59 / 0 / 5 / 5 / 69
Global70 / 2 / 5 / 1 / 78
Pullman – 11,668 / 50 / 239 / 603 / 12,560
Spokane – 412 / 1 / 19 / 1 / 433
Tri-Cities – 285 / 1 / 19 / 14 / 319
Vancouver – 725 / 0 / 44 / 24 / 793

  • Total – 13,219 / 54 / 331 / 648 / 14,252

Campus Vaccinated / Medical / Religious / Personal
Everett – 85.5% / 0.0% / 7.2% / 7.2%
Global – 89.7% / 2.6% / 6.4% / 1.3%
Pullman – 92.9% / 0.4% / 1.9% / 4.8%
Spokane – 95.2% / 0.2% / 4.4% / 0.2%
Tri-Cities – 89.3% / 0.3% / 6.0% / 4.4%
Vancouver – 91.4% / 0.0% / 5.5% / 3.0%

  • Total – 92.8% 0.4% 2.3% 4.5%

Doug Call, Chair, Faculty Senate

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Notice: Message from the Faculty Senate Chair

Dear Colleagues – Several individuals have expressed concerns about the lack of apparent response to some of the constituent concerns expressed in this forum. The Provost’s Office has assured us that they are monitoring these concerns and that the primary mechanism for them to respond is via the WSU Covid FAQ page. At this juncture, we are sending a summary of outstanding constituent concerns to the Provost’s Office and have requested a direct response that we can share through this constituent concerns page. Thank you for your patience.

Additionally, here are some mostly Pullman-centric factoids about COVID-19 as of 24 Aug 2021:

  • The Whitman County case count (293/100,000) is lower than the state level (437.5/100,000).
  • The vaccination rate in Pullman is much higher (59%) than other areas (36-39%).
  • Local hospital representatives report an increase in case load, but we are doing “ok” overall.
  • Approximately 11,300 students have reported their vaccination status (>90% vaccinated) with about 500 reporting personal exemptions (these will have to be adjusted given the recent vaccination mandate). Students have until 10 September to declare their status and WSU is receiving about 200 declarations per day at present. The rolling 5-day testing average has increased to 23.6 tests/day. I don’t have a positivity rate.
  • K-12 schools start classes today and a mask mandate is in place.
  • More local information can be found at: https://www.whitmancountypublichealth.org (presumably, the same can be said for other campus county health departments).
  • We are asking the administration for a public-facing, system-level dashboard with COVID-19 metrics.

Doug Call, Chair, Faculty Senate

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More Questions & Clarifications on Information Provided

1) About the welcoming week events:

a. Why did the university sponsor and seek outside sponsorship (BECU) for unmasked and densely populated events to take place before classes started? (CougsGlow dance party = https://twitter.com/WSUPullman/status/1428951054335438848
b. What safety measures were in place?
c. Were vaccinations required at the door to get into these events? (As a point of comparison, real actual nightclubs in my community require vaccination proof PLUS masks at the door before entry. As an institution of higher learning, we should be held to a higher standard than nightclubs.)
d. Why did the university wait to announce universal masking until AFTER welcoming week events started? Why did they wait until after Gov Inslee had released the state mandate?
e. For all of these decisions, what reasoning was used to make these decisions?

i. what risk-to-benefit ratio or health economics modeling was considered?
ii. What ethical implications did the Administration consider here?

2) About the WSU COVID policy / FAQs

a. Where is the complete WSU COVID policy viewable? Not FAQs, I mean really.
b. Who is making these decisions about WSU COVID policy?
c. What are their public health qualifications?
d. Have faculty who teach, students, staff, adjacent communities, public health officials been invited to contribute to, see or comment on our institution’s full COVID policy?
e. How exactly has the rapid surge of the delta variant influenced policy? (NOT referring to the governor’s more recent masking and vaccination mandates. Those are WA state mandates. Not from WSU and were not institutionally in place before the state mandate.)
f. Why are the FAQs and multiple emails are not consistent. Here’s an example: “If vaccinated, wearing a mask is optional.” https://ehs.wsu.edu/public-health/distancing-and-disinfection-plan-2/. I know that’s not true, but it’s still in the policy. there are numerous examples of these inconsistencies.
g. How are we supposed to act according to state law and a singular policy if the policies do not always follow state law and are inconsistent?
h. What punishment will staff, students, faculty take if they enact something one way that is in line with the policy but it is at odds with another policy point due to internal inconsistency?
i. What punishment will be meted out to faculty, staff and students who refuse to follow policies to protect their own, their families and their communities’ health? Some of us have professional ethics we are obliged to follow. What can we expect? Will we lose our jobs?

3) Mask Mandates:

a. It says on FAQs that instructors can take off their masks at 6’ distance. This would be out of compliance with state law. How is this possible?
b. It says face shields and plexiglass may be available. But these DO NOT WORK and may make things worse by giving people a false sense of security and by disrupting the airflow to even negatively impact the circulation. The CDC does not recommend them. Why do the covid policies negate the science and even the CDC?
-Face shields do not work: https://nyti.ms/3kvxPZg
-plexiglass does not work: https://nyti.ms/3gy3Pur

4) Vaccination mandates:

a. Now that one of the vaccines has full FDA approval, is the personal reasons mandate for students gone in 45 days from 8/24? Or does that clock start when all three have full FDA approval? Why 45 days? Why not now?
b. Is that new documentation for religious/health reasons now in place as promised on the FAQs?
c. What requirements are there are that people register their documented vaccination status? What consequences do they face if staff, faculty or students fail to register their status THIS semester? I read things “may” happen this semester, but it’s unclear—just a hold on classes for students for next semester – what about this semester? what about for faculty and staff?
d. I read HR is “working on” ways to verify status. Why was this not done over the summer? When will vaccination status actually be established?
e. Why does administration refer to us as a “fully vaccinated” university, when we are NOT? At this point, we are — from a public health perspective — no better than institutions in Texas (except for some of those have acknowledged that and gone on line). Good intentions for future enforcement do not matter to the COVID virus. We are at high risk currently. We are not a fully vaccinated institution, please clarify.

5) The In-person Teaching/Learning Mandate:

a. What was the reasoning behind insisting vehemently on in-person classes BEFORE everyone was to provide documented proof of vaccination (or documented medical/religious reason)? That is nonsensical from a public health perspective. The fact is that staff, faculty do NOT have to be fully vaccinated until 10/18. Students still have a loophole of personal reasons until 45 days after full FDA authorization. This means we are unprotected for the first two months of class at least—likely longer. Again, as administration considers these questions, I ask them to remember that nightclubs are requiring proof of negative tests or vaccination cards and masks at the door before entry.
b. Why are there no accommodations for students, staff and faculty to work remotely—particularly those with unvaccinated children and family with underlying health conditions?
c. Why did the administration falsely indicate that our accreditation required going back in person, when this is verifiably false (https://nwccu.app.box.com/s/r2ircwnz8o0hkdrranqnzs0njwdl0tun), which was confirmed by an administrator at NWCCU.
d. Distancing is no longer required because the “requirements no longer apply to fully vaccinated institutions.” Again, we are not fully vaccinated. WSU doesn’t even have everyone’s status reported, much less proof that we are “fully vaccinated.” Further, this is truly unjustifiable because the policy reads as if it is based on the time from before delta, which is far more transmissible, in a far lower amount of time of exposure, and even outdoors. how is this justified? the only justification I can find is that it’s not state law. Again, that’s a low bar that even WA state nightclubs are overcoming.

6) Dashboard

a. Why is the link to the WSU COVID dashboard gone? http://news.wsu.edu/2021/01/22/wsu-launches-new-covid-19-dashboard/
b. Is there a new dashboard somewhere else?
c. If not, why was it removed?
d. When will it be reinstated?

7) Testing

a. What mandatory testing are unvaxxed students, staff and faculty required to do? at what intervals?
b. What regular testing is being done to ensure we detect cases at WSU and contain them? (And again, please connect these to a dashboard.)

8) When Outbreaks Occur

a. What exactly do we do if our students test positive? how will we know?
b. If they tell us that, what do we really do? This means most of my students will have been exposed, so the idea one student would “isolate” is an unlikely scenario in many of our programs in which students will be exposed to their fellow classmates in other classes or often across the course of a week. I assume we would need to quarantine and all go to online learning at that point?
c. What do parents do when their unvaxxed kids or vulnerable family members need homeschooling, quarantining and/or isolation? I assume we are engaging in online learning, but I find no FAQs responding to this.
d. Dr. Elizabeth Meade, immediate past president of the WA chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, recently noted that with delta, When parents of unvaccinated children are making decisions about going out into the community, they “need to behave as if nobody in the household is vaccinated.” Has the administration taken into account that many of us have children under the age of 12 and are thus vectors for infection back and forth? What are our accommodations for this point?
e. Our vaccinations are only 55% effective against asymptomatic transmission. I assume this is known by administration. How is that being accounted for in the calculations for all these regulations and how outbreaks are handled? (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/18/health/covid-cdc-boosters-elderly.html)

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Questioning the statistical integrity of the vax rates reported

The responses we are receiving assume we have poor understanding of basic descriptive statistics. I challenge the recent assertion that >90% of students are vaccinated. You have to report the response rate for that to have any actual context.

  •  Can we please add a dashboard on the vax status data, by campus, by status (faculty, staff, student)? This would be pretty incentivizing and fun to watch [from a distance] increase over the course of the semester.
  • In the meantime, what percentage of the WSU community (reported separately by classification — faculty, staff, students– and by campus):
    • Have reported their vaccination status?
    • Have a fully documented full vaccination status, have a documented medical exemption, have a documented religious exemption, have a “personal/philosophical” exemption? Also, be sure to provide those data with the % non-reporter provided, so it’s not misleading statistically, so:
  • xx% missing data
  • xx% fully vaccinated
  • xx% documented medical exemption
  • xx% religious exemption
  • xx% philosophical/personal exemption
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Please sign this petition for a safer teaching and learning environment at WSU

The COVID-19 delta variant poses an increasing challenge to WSU students, staff, and faculty. It is also putting our families at risk–our unvaccinated children and immune-compromised family members. It is endangering the larger surrounding community, where the vaccination rate is only 44%. This petition demands for more shared leadership and transparency informing COVID-19 policy, alternative accommodations for more vulnerable constituents, including access to remote learning/teaching, and regular testing and monitoring to detect and contain outbreaks in a timely way.

I have a list of questions for the administration about the COVID-19 policies and procedures, which some other constituents have noted below. I am very concerned about the apparent lack of clarity around many of the policies or the lack of communication thereof.

Please sign the petition for the safety and the health of our community by clicking the link here.

Susan E. Collins, PhD, WSU Department of Psychology

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Request for further clarification of COVID FAQs

Could the FAQ-s clarify the types of masks permitted under the governor’s order? It is likely to cause disturbances.
https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/Secretary_of_Health_Order_20-03_Statewide_Face_Coverings.pdf
p.4:
“Types of face coverings permitted.
o For purposes of this order, a face covering must:
+Fit snugly against the sides of the face;
+ Completely cover the nose and mouth;
+ Be secured with ties, ear loops, elastic bands, or other equally effective method; and
+ Include at least one layer of tightly woven fabric without visible holes, although
multiple layers are strongly recommended.
o A face covering may also be a mask or face covering that provides a higher level of
protection than a cloth face covering, such as a medical procedure/surgical mask, a KN95
mask, or an N95 mask. ”

Also, I am concerned that one of the FAQ statements as written actually contradicts the order and needs to be revised more carefully. Specifically, FAQ says
“Can instructors remove their masks to teach?
Vaccinated instructors are permitted to remove their face coverings to teach, provided they maintain 6 feet of distance from their class OR can instruct behind a plexiglass barrier. …”
The governor’s order does not mention 6′ distancing, and does not specifically recognize instruction as a reason to remove one’s mask. In particular, the DOH order specifically indicates that public agencies and officials can impose more strict, but not less strict requirements.
To clarify the statement in question, there are provisions for removing one’s mask under specific circumstance (p.3 of the DOH order). E.g. communication with hearing-impaired students is one of those cases. But not in general.

Alex Dimitrov, Mathematics and Statistics

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COVID mask mandate

(A note addressing prior concerns, not a concern)

Luckily, the governor came to everybody’s rescue:
https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslee-announces-educator-vaccination-requirement-and-statewide-indoor-mask-mandate

Alexander Dimitrov, CAS Math & Stats

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The rising covid case rate – even among vaccinated individuals – has many instructors concerned about the university moving forward with face-to-face instruction, especially in large enrollment courses.

WSU policies surrounding fall 2021 instruction were developed under assumptions about the effectiveness of vaccines and lower positive case rates. These were reasonable policies given the information at the time. Unfortunately, that information is now outdated and obsolete. The rising covid case rate – even among vaccinated individuals – has many instructors concerned about the university moving forward with face-to-face courses. Large enrollment courses (> 60 or >100 students) are particularly worrisome. Recent data and local health trends suggest that the administration should reconsider its current instructional policy, and allow online/hybrid instruction to ensure the safety of students, staff, and the community.

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There is no plan for what happens to an instructor if/when they fall ill.

There are many unanswered questions about the logistics of moving forward. To name a few:

1. If a course is billed as FTF, can an instructor flip to SO or hybrid if they get sick? Now such changes are not being considered (apparently)

2. What if they are too sick to teach–who steps in?

3. Does an instructor infected with Covid on campus file a worker compensation claim if they need medical treatment and/or return to work benefits? Our state considers an illness that arises out of and in the course of their employment as eligible for workers compensation?

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Hybrid Models of Teaching for Primary Caregivers given Delta

Along with many of my colleagues I am adamant that the administration re-implement the hybrid model of teaching for those with medical or caregiver needs. My two boys are 3 years and 10 months, and they have never even had a cold. My significant other and I both teach large scale classes and are essentially being asked to expose ourselves, and therefore our children, to over 300 students multiple times a week. A mask mandate is a first step, but the Delta variant requires that the hybrid model must be an option. We know it works pedagogically and also keeps us and our children safe. We should not have to resort to such lengths to keep our families safe when we know this incredibly viable option exists. Thank you all for your efforts in keeping our community safe.

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Alternatives for Primary Caregivers Given Rise in Delta

Given the recent news on both the contagiousness and the deleterious effects of the new Delta variant, especially on children, I find it my utmost responsibility to do everything in my power to keep my two, very young, unvaccinated children safe. If the latest numbers on the spread of COVID in Whitman county are correct (a 300-599% increase in the last 30 days), alongside our pandemic history this time last year (#1 New York Times hot spot) I really prefer to go back to a hybrid model of teaching that keeps me (and therefore my children!) socially distanced from students. Given the latest memo from the Provost outlining the various teaching options (e.g., some online, hybrid) why can’t we go back to such models knowing that they are quite effective?

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COVID-19 public safety protocols at WSU concerning

Given the rise of the delta variant, I am incredibly worried about the public health implications (and for my family’s health) of returning in person next week.

I cannot believe I am saying this at an institution of higher learning—even the full-on commercial ventures have put off bringing people back into offices this fall (Google, Amazon) — but here it is. This is irresponsible from a public health perspective. There is no universal masking, no strict requirement that people are vaccinated. (Even with tightening on “personal reasons,” people do not have to be fully vaxxed until well into the school year, after the damage is done.)

Educators and health care professionals at WSU do not seem to care that cases in WA state rose 192% over the past 2 weeks (Texas was +53%, btw). Deaths are up 126%. Whitman county is currently 43% vaccinated (over 12).

And what about those of us with children under 12? Who is wondering what will happen in terms of transmission to and from them as they return to public schools? My zipcode where my child will attend school is 43% vaxxed as well. Teachers are not required to be vaccinated.

I sense that there is a high-stakes game of chicken being played on the backs of faculty, their families and – worst of all – students who belong to the highest hospitalization risk group now. It’s a frightening public health experiment that I have been told I cannot opt out of and students have no recourse if they are concerned about their own vulnerabilities.

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Ditto others’ concerns: we need a mask mandate ASAP

Federal, state, and county public health officials strongly recommend masking indoors regardless of vaccination status. We would do well to follow UW’s lead and mandate masks. Here’s hoping Gov. Inslee issues a mask mandate soon so that WSU must comply.

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