A message today from Dean Mark P. Taylor to the Olin student community:
I am writing to share important reminders and several updates related to the university’s plans for COVID-19 testing. A similar message is being shared with all graduate and professional students across the Danforth Campus of Washington University.
Our Shared Commitment to Stopping the Spread of COVID-19
The university continues to monitor conditions in St. Louis and at colleges and universities 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. This includes wearing masks when we are outside and cannot maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others. We are seeing cases rise in St. Louis and around the country when people attend social gatherings as well as other events, on or off campus. The risk of infection increases 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 tomorrow, September 1, 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 which modality of instruction you will use or where you will be located this semester—must complete the COVID-19 Canvas course. The course shares information that will keep all of us, individually and collectively, safer and healthier. We all must adhere to this guidance 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 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, 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.”
Our medical and infectious disease experts tell us even the most robust testing system won’t prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Still, 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.
Most significantly, the US Food & Drug Administration recently approved a highly accurate COVID-19 saliva test created by WashU 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:
- All graduate and professional students who will work, teach, conduct research or take classes on the Danforth Campus will 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.
The university leadership team is constantly reviewing plans for the fall semester, always with 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. We all must remain mindful of the challenges and limitations inherent with any COVID-19 testing program. At the same time, 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 social gatherings 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 such gatherings, on or off campus, and further remind you to familiarize yourself with our revised conduct policies—especially pertaining to social gatherings. 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.