Messages from the University

Updated Information about Thanksgiving Break

November 12, 2020

Dear parents and families,

I am passing along two additional communications that went out to students today about the Thanksgiving Break: one from the Chancellor and the Provost, and one from me.  As I am sure you are observing, conditions related to COVID-19 are continuing to worsen both nationally and here in the St. Louis region.  We are also experiencing an increase in cases here in our student community.  Unfortunately, we have had to make a change to our guidance surrounding the Thanksgiving Break and we are returning to our original requirement that students can make a choice – to remain here in St. Louis for the Thanksgiving Break and complete the final three weeks of the fall semester in-person and on-campus, or travel home and complete the final three weeks remotely.  This was not an easy decision to make but we have made this adjustment for the safety of our community.

If your student has specific questions regarding their situation, they should email those to covidquestions@wustl.edu and someone will get back in touch with them.

As always, we appreciate your understanding and your partnership.

Sincerely,

Robert M. Wild, Ph.D.
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs


November 12, 2020

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.

Sincerely,

Andrew D. Martin
Chancellor

Beverly Wendland
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs


Dear undergraduate students,

I am writing as a follow-up to the email you just received from Chancellor Martin and Provost Wendland.  I know that for many of us, this time in the fall semester can be filled with the stress of assignments and exams. The challenges associated with COVID-19 have added more anxiety and uncertainty for all of us.  On behalf of all of us at Washington University, I want to express my deepest and most heartfelt appreciation to every single one of you.  The sacrifices you have made and your commitment to our collective success have been beyond admirable.  I have never been more proud to be a WashU Bear than I have this fall semester.  Thank you!

We are now entering a difficult, but not entirely unexpected time in the pandemic that is going to require each of us to make personal decisions for the benefit of our wider community.  This week, we have seen a rising number of COVID-19 infections among students that is mirroring the rising numbers we are seeing in the region.  There are two items here that require attention from many of you.

  1. Thanksgiving Commitment Form 

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.  All undergraduate students who are studying in St. Louis this fall will be required to complete the Thanksgiving Break Travel Commitment Form at the bottom of this email by 5:00 PM CST on Friday, November 20.  For undergraduate students who choose to travel more than 60 miles outside of the St. Louis region, you are acknowledging that you will complete the fall semester remotely.  Your campus access will be temporarily suspended until the start of the spring semester.  Access will also be temporarily suspended for students who do not complete the Thanksgiving Break Travel Commitment Form.

  1. Optional Additional Surveillance Testing

As COVID-19 conditions in the region worsen, we will begin offering a limited number of optional asymptomatic COVID-19 tests to Danforth Campus undergraduate students. Per guidance from regional public health departments, any student who receives a positive result will be required to enter isolation housing and likely will not be allowed to leave St. Louis. The close contacts of students who test positive also will be required to quarantine and also may not be able to leave St. Louis. Testing will be available Monday, November 16 to Thursday, November 19, and Sunday, November 22 to Tuesday, November 24. To register for an appointment, visit recstore.wustl.edu, log in with your WUSTL key, select COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Scheduling, and select the week you would like to complete an optional test.

While the new requirement for Thanksgiving travel is likely not completely unexpected, I recognize that it may put some of you in a difficult situation.  The safety and well-being of everyone in our community remains our top priority as we make these difficult decisions.  Please know that we plan to keep the residence halls open throughout Thanksgiving Break, as well as over the winter break for Residential Life students who need to remain in St. Louis.  The services provided by Habif Health and Wellness will continue to operate throughout the weeks ahead, should you need them.  We are all here to support you as best we can.

If you have a specific personal situation that you need to discuss with someone, please email your question or concern to covidquestions@wustl.edu and someone from our team will get back in touch with you.

Again, I want to highlight how proud I am of all of you.  We have shown what it means to prioritize the safety of our campus community and St. Louis community by taking the steps needed to protect ourselves and others.  As we near the conclusion of our fall semester, we must continue to make personal choices for the safety of ourselves and others, and I trust all of you will make the decision that is right for you AND our campus community.

Thank you,

Robert M. Wild
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs