In an email to students and faculty at Western Washington University on Monday afternoon, President Sabah Randhawa announced that remote learning will be extended another two weeks, starting Tuesday, Jan. 11. The extension will last until Jan. 24.
Randhawa attributed the timeframe to an assumption that the current spike in cases Western is facing will follow the same pattern as in other communities, with a rapid increase followed by a rapid decline.
COVID-19 cases in Bellingham have risen leading up to winter quarter, going from 269 new cases reported on Dec. 27 to 509 new cases reported on Jan. 1.
Randhawa acknowledged the impact moving back to remote learning could have on students’ plans for the term; however, state law restricts Western’s ability to extend the deadlines for tuition refunds beyond the pre-existing Jan. 10 deadline.
According to state law RCW 28B.15.600:
Four-year institutions can only offer full refunds on tuition prior to the sixth day of instruction for which the fees or tuition are due.
On or after the sixth day of instruction, the university may refund or cancel up to half of the tuition or fees due, so long as the withdrawal occurs within the first 30 days following the beginning of instruction.
The email stated on-campus student services that were open week one will remain open for students who live at Western. Individual offices or areas needing to close or reduce operating hours will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
In another email to students on Jan. 10, the WWU COVID Support Team released updated isolation and quarantine guidelines following new Centers for Disease Control and Washington Department of Health recommendations. The new guidelines are aimed at addressing the Omicron variant, which has a higher transmission rate than other COVID-19 variants, according to the CDC.
Under the new guidelines, students and employees who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate themselves for five days and wear a mask for an additional five days.
Students who are directly notified that they have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case will need to quarantine for five days, regardless of their vaccination status.
For employees who are directly notified that they have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case, they will need to quarantine for five days but only if they have yet to receive a booster dose.
When referring to public health, isolation and quarantine refer to different sets of actions people must take, said the Department of Health and Human Services.
Isolation separates people sick with a disease from those who are not sick.
Quarantine separates and reduces the movement of those who have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.
For more information about the specific guidelines for isolation vs. quarantine, visit the DHHS website.
More information on isolation and quarantine guidelines specific to students living on campus will be provided in an email from housing, said the COVID Support Team.
Additional reporting contributed by Liz McLane.
Ryan Scott is a third-year Visual Journalism major and city life reporter for The Western Front. When not reporting, Ryan enjoys photography, listening to music, driving, and cooking if he can find the time. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.