Messages from the University

COVID-19 Reminders and Testing Updates

August 31, 2020

Dear students and families:

With many students set to begin returning to St. Louis this week, we are writing to share some important reminders and several updates related to our plans for COVID-19 testing. While this message is being sent to undergraduate students and their families, much of this guidance also applies to graduate and professional students who will receive a separate message from their school deans.

Our Shared Commitment to Stopping the Spread of COVID-19

We continue to monitor conditions here in St. Louis and at colleges and universities that are opening around the country.  It is clear that the most effective way we can collectively stop the spread of COVID-19 is by wearing masks when we are outside of our private offices and our private residential rooms.  This includes wearing masks when we are outside and cannot maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others outside of our household.  We are seeing cases arise here in St. Louis and around the country when people attend social gatherings – especially parties – as well as other events, on or off campus. There is an increased risk of infection with any event or gathering that takes place without masks and physical distancing.

As a reminder, you are required to complete the COVID-19 Canvas course before you come to campus or by September 1 (tomorrow!), whichever date is first. The Canvas course includes COVID-19 public health requirements and the WashU Community Pledge and Policy Acknowledgment, which all students must complete before the start of the semester.  These include important reminders about our shared commitment to stopping the spread of COVID-19. All students, regardless of modality of instruction or where you will be located this semester, must complete the COVID-19 Canvas course – it contains information that will keep all of us, individually and collectively, safer and healthier, that should be adhered to at all times and in all places.

If You Receive a COVID-19 Positive Diagnosis

We know there will be cases of COVID-19 in our community this fall. Some of you reading this message have already received a positive diagnosis, and in the months ahead others will as well.  If you have symptoms that you are concerned about, or are seeking testing, you should reach out FIRST to Habif Health and Wellness Center. This is true for all students who will be spending any time on the Danforth Campus – undergraduate and graduate students, whether you are living on campus or off campus in the St. Louis region. Testing will be more rapid and with greater support when initiated through Habif. Additionally, it is crucial if you receive a positive diagnosis from a provider other than Habif Health and Wellness Center that you report that immediately to Habif at 314-935-6666.  As a reminder, the pledge we must all agree to, in order to be together on campus, requires reporting positive cases:

“If I test positive for COVID-19 or am told by a health care provider that I am presumed positive, I will contact Habif Health and Wellness Center immediately at 314-935-6666 and comply with the isolation instructions provided by the university and the local Department of Health, which may include temporarily relocating to another residential space.”

Testing Updates

While we know from our medical and infectious disease experts that even the most robust testing system won’t prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community, we believe it is important to use testing to our greatest advantage in order to minimize the spread.  We have been closely monitoring regional and national developments throughout our planning for fall and continue to incorporate new information into our strategy as it becomes available. Since our communications last week, we have learned more about our capabilities for testing and how we can use this important tool most effectively as a part of our overall strategy to protect the health of our community.

Most significantly, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration recently approved a highly accurate COVID-19 saliva test created by university faculty.  This test provides results within 24-36 hours. This means we are now in a position to increase our testing program on the Danforth Campus as follows:

  • As previously announced, students moving into Residential Life housing will be tested as part of their housing check-in process.
  • Additionally, as the semester begins, all undergraduate students in the St. Louis region who are living off-campus in non-Residential Life housing will be required to complete a COVID test provided by the university. Testing will be offered and required on the Danforth Campus for this purpose during the first week of undergraduate classes, September 14-18.
  • After this initial round of testing at the start of the semester, all undergraduate students living in the St. Louis region will be required to complete a university-provided COVID test every two weeks for the duration of the fall semester.  More details will be provided soon by email to all undergraduate students.
  • With the aim of testing all students who will be physically present on the Danforth Campus as campus density increases, all graduate and professional students who will work, teach, conduct research or take classes on the Danforth Campus will also now be required to complete a university-provided COVID test. These will be administered from September 17-25. We will share details with our graduate and professional students the week of September 7.
  • We also will provide testing for all Washington University students, faculty, and staff who develop COVID-19-related symptoms at any time during the fall semester upon referral from Habif Health and Wellness Center or Occupational Health.
  • All COVID-19 testing on the Danforth Campus will be provided at no charge to students, faculty and staff.

Along with the rest of the university leadership team, we are constantly reviewing plans for the fall semester, always with invaluable guidance from our medical and infectious disease experts and with a close eye on emerging trends and observations of COVID-19 in our region and beyond. While we all must remain mindful of the challenges and limitations that are inherent with any COVID-19 testing program, we are committed to erring on the side of caution and using our resources not only to help reduce the risk of spread within our university community, but also in support of others in the St. Louis region and across the state. The university’s strategy for fall may be updated as warranted, and as circumstances and science continue to evolve.

We all share responsibility for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our community.  As much as we know our students are eager to return to campus to reconnect with friends and classmates, we cannot emphasize enough that parties pose a huge risk to the success of our fall semester. They are the single biggest threat to our being able to continue with in-person instruction, which we know is so important to so many of you. We remind and urge our students not to host or attend parties, on or off campus, and further remind you to familiarize yourself with our revised conduct policies – especially pertaining to parties. We know this is asking a lot, but we also believe that our students will do what is right and in the best interest of our community.

We are grateful for your partnership, and we will continue to provide updates and instructions in the days and weeks ahead.  We look forward to being together again soon.


Beverly Wendland

Robert M. Wild, PhD
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs