Washburn University urges masks, COVID-19 vaccines as students head back for spring semester

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 11:36 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Washburn University has urged students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and regularly wear masks as they head back to campus for the spring semester.

Washburn University notified students and staff as the spring semester is set to begin, the COVID-19 environment has once again begged the need for additional planning. Fortunately, a great deal more is known about the virus now than when it was first encountered in 2020. Most importantly, it said there are now multiple, safe and effective vaccines and a better understanding of how the virus is transmitted.

However, Washburn said the challenge of multiple variants - some more contagious than others - has caused the University to examine its approach and decide if any changes to protocols are warranted.

Washburn said it has consulted with internal health experts as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Shawnee County Health Department and it is confident it can have a full and active semester as long as everyone continues to work together to stay safe.

After careful consideration of the current health climate, Washburn said it has decided it will continue to have classes in a normal classroom setting. It will continue to require masks in all classrooms, hallways and public spaces inside buildings on campus. Eating and drinking have been discouraged in classrooms while classes are in session.

WU said it will not require, but will strongly encourage masks to be worn outdoors when social distancing is not possible. It said there will be very limited exceptions to the mask rule while using exercise equipment. Masks will only be allowed to be removed while actively eating or drinking.

If extra protection is needed, the CDC has encouraged the use of KN95 masks or double-masking using a cloth mask over a surgical mask. In any case, Washburn said students and staff should ensure their masks fit well and do not have any gaps around the sides of the face or nose.

In the residence halls, Washburn said masks will not be required within a room or suite. Roommates are considered a “family” unit. In the common areas or residence halls - including hallways and study lounges - masks will not be required as long as residents can maintain social distancing.

Washburn said it is proud to say it has been able to hold classes safely and move students on to their educational goals. It has managed to have at least two graduation ceremonies in-person. However, it said it also knows that at least for now, everyone needs to continue to exercise care and keep basic, common-sense precautions in place.

The University said vaccines are still the best protection for both the individual and the community as a whole. Student health services has both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine available for free for students, faculty and staff. It said that includes booster shots for those who have already been fully vaccinated. If students and staff have not been vaccinated or boosted, it said it urges them to get the shot if they are able.

Washburn said Student Health Services also has COVID tests available and urges students to get tested if they show symptoms, even if they have been vaccinated.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Washburn said it asked everyone to stay safe so we could stay together. It said students and staff have done a great job of keeping COVID at bay on campus, however, the work must continue a bit longer.

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