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Washington State University
Washington State University Office of the Provost

Polices Policies and Procedures

Spring 2022 Operations and Course Delivery FAQs

As WSU continues its in-person operations and course delivery, the Provost’s Office has established the following frequently asked questions from faculty. If you are interested in submitting a question, please send the same to The Provost’s Office will add questions and ensure information is aligned with current federal, state, and university policies.

Kindly email the Provost’s Office at

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: January 7, 2022

What happens when a student reports a positive COVID-19 test to an instructor?

  • If a student reports COVID positive to a faculty member, then the instructor should encourage the student to report to Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S). EH&S is contracted with the Whitman County Health Department to provide contact tracing. Those organizations will follow up with any close contacts of a student who tests COVID-positive that need to be alerted. EH&S can be reached at 509-335-9564 or 509-335-5251.
  • The instructor should not make any announcement to the class about the presence of a COVID positive individual in the classroom. We should let the Public Health professionals handle that part of the cycle.
  • Even if they are exposed, individuals who are vaccinated and boosted are currently not required to quarantine according to CDC guidelines (here) unless they themselves become symptomatic.

Can I ask for a student to provide proof of a quarantine or isolation order?

Because new CDC and DOH guidance has shortened the quarantine and isolation period to five (5) days, EH&S will no longer be providing quarantine/isolation orders for students. Supervisors and instructors—please practice understanding and offer flexibility for students and employees who are ill.

How can faculty support students who are sequestered?

Faculty should exercise understanding and generosity in responding to students’ requests to keep up with the coursework or make up missed work due to illness. We expect instructors to reasonably accommodate students who are absent. However, how absences and missed work is handled is at the discretion of the respective instructor.

It is recommended that instructors in General University Classrooms take advantage of the Cougar Lecture Capture technology in their classroom to record and make available class sessions for students who are ill or quarantining. Instructors can also *repurpose materials from the 2020-2021 academic year that they created (Zoom recordings, Panopto lecture recordings, VoiceStream recordings, etc.) and make them available to students during the spring 2022 semester. Alternatively, audio recordings of class sessions on a personal recording device may also be shared through the Canvas course space.

*NOTE: Instructors should be cautious if they want to repurpose course materials (e.g. prior Zoom or Panopto recordings) that contain student identifiable information (names, ID, etc.) so that there is not a violation of FERPA. Prior materials should only be used if either; 1) all students with identifiable information have consented to their use, or 2) all student identifying information has been removed.

Do instructors need to wear a face covering/mask while lecturing?

Yes. Due to the high transmission rate of the Omicron variant, all instructors should wear face coverings/masks while lecturing, even if physical distance can be maintained. Cloth masks, face shields, and neck gaiters have been shown to be less effective against Omicron. KN95, KF94, surgical masks, or their equivalents are recommended. We are making these more robust masks available in administrative offices across campus.

Are students required to wear masks?

Students, faculty, and staff must wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status, effective August 23, 2021. Read more about the statewide policy.

Will masks be made available if a student forgets to bring/wear a mask to class?

A limited number of disposable mases will be available at central campus locations.

Do I have to enforce mask rules in my classroom?

Faculty should ask the student to put on a mask. If the student doesn’t have a mask, they should be asked to leave to retrieve one. If a student does not comply, faculty should ask the student to leave for the duration of the class period.

Faculty can report repetitive, egregious, and reckless behavior to the Center for Community Standards. Please include as much detail as possible in the Community Standards report.

If a student refuses to leave, faculty should continue instructing and file a report with the Center for Community Standards. If a student is posing an immediate threat or disrupting the class to the point instruction is compromised for the class, the instructor is encouraged to call:

  • WSU Pullman Police’s non-emergency dispatch at 509-335-8548;
  • WSU Vancouver Campus non-emergency assistance at 360-546-9001;
  • Campus Security on the WSU Spokane Campus at 509-358-7995;
  • or Campus Security on the WSU Tri-Cities Campus at 509-372-7234.

Per existing policies, students demonstrating symptoms of COVID-19 can also be asked to leave the classroom.

What qualifies as an acceptable mask?

Per Secretary Shah’s Health Order 20-03.4, “…a face covering must:

  • Fit snugly against the sides of the face;
  • Completely cover the nose and mouth;
  • Be secured with ties, ear loops, elastic bands, or other equally effective method; and
  • Include at least one layer of tightly woven fabric without visible holes, although multiple layers are strongly recommended.

A face covering may also be a mask or face covering that provides a higher level of protection than a cloth face covering, such as a medical procedure/surgical mask, a KN95 mask, or an N95 mask.

Clear or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel may be used when interacting with people who are deaf or hard of hearing, young children or students learning to read, students learning a new language, people with disabilities, and people who need to see the proper shape of the mouth for making appropriate vowel sounds.”

For the mask mandate, if a student is unmasked in our classroom what is the protocol for requiring them to put on a mask and/or determining if they have an accommodation to not wear a mask? Will we receive notification from the Access Center if a student has an accommodation to wear a mask and can we otherwise require them?

  • If a student states that they have a medical reason they cannot wear a mask, they must be referred to meet with their campus Access Center and go through the accommodation process.
  • An interim measure is for the student to request flexibility in meeting course requirements from the instructor similar to the sequestration process described in the question immediately above. Students should not attend class without a mask during the accommodation review process.
  • If the Access Advisor, after reviewing the documentation provided, confirms that the student has a medical reason to not wear a mask, the access advisor will notify each instructor as they would for any other accommodation. Accommodation options may include a face shield, distancing, or alternative course participation options. Additionally, the access advisor will prepare the student for questions they (the student) may get and how to respond to those questions.

What happens when I report a student for violating the mask or other COVID policies?

Faculty can report repetitive, egregious, and reckless behavior to the Center for Community Standards. Please include as much detail as possible in the Community Standards report.

The Center for Community Standards will review your report to determine next steps. Students have rights within the community standards process. The community standards process has several steps within it to ensure appropriate due process; the timeline to resolve the report is variable and can take time.

Is it okay for masks to be optional for classes outside? If we do not wear masks, do we need to maintain six feet of distance between each person?

Classes hosted outdoors are not required to wear masks if adequate distance can be maintained. Masks are strongly encouraged outdoors.

Can instructors ask to see proof of vaccination from a student? 

No, instructors cannot ask to see proof of vaccination from a student in their classroom.

Will instructors have a list of who’s vaccinated? Do instructors have to track student vaccinations?

No, instructors will not have a list of vaccinated students and should not track vaccination status. Instructors are not permitted to ask for proof of vaccination.

Should I ask unvaccinated students to sit together?

No, concentrating unvaccinated students in the same location contradicts the public health concept of herd immunity; social distancing in classrooms is not required, regardless of the students’ vaccination status.

Am I responsible for sanitizing my classroom?

No, facility and custodial services will maintain classrooms.

What if someone in my class gets COVID?

Any student who receives a positive diagnosis will be required to isolate. Any close contacts of that individual will be contacted by health officials, and unvaccinated/not recently vaccinated close contacts will be required to quarantine for five (5) days. Instructors will need to have contingency plans and be flexible with due dates, tests dates, providing notes, etc., for students who are required to isolate or quarantine.

If there is a conflict between students about mask wearing, what do I do?

If students are being disruptive and demonstrating repetitive, egregious, and reckless behavior, the student(s) can be asked to leave the classroom and referred to the Center for Community Standards. Please include as much detail as possible in the Community Standards report.

If the situation elevates and the student is demonstrating egregious and reckless behavior, and will not leave the classroom, the instructor is encouraged to call:

  • WSU Pullman Police’s non-emergency dispatch at 509-335-8548;
  • WSU Vancouver Campus non-emergency assistance at 360-546-9001;
  • Campus Security on the WSU Spokane Campus at 509-358-7995;
  • or Campus Security on the WSU Tri-Cities Campus at 509-372-7234.

In all situations, the student may need additional support or access to resources. You can reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students through the Student Care Network or email

If a student is unvaccinated, can I ask them to participate remotely instead of attending class in person?

No, however, as referenced above, state policy requires all individuals to wear a mask indoors. If there is a violation of the masking policy, faculty can ask the student to leave the classroom and report the violation to the Center for Community Standards.

Can I give a student points toward their grade for being vaccinated?


Can I prohibit students from eating and/or drinking in the classroom so they don’t take their masks off?

No, unless the course has a no eating/drinking policy for the class and the policy is outlined in the course syllabus.

Are we allowed to ask any person (faculty, staff, or student) to wear a mask if they want to come into our offices?

Yes. The State of Washington requires everyone to wear a mask indoors in public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Instructors are welcome to host remote office hours.

What systems are in place to verify students’ vaccination status?

Students must submit proof of vaccination. The process for students to submit proof of vaccination, or file an exemption is available on the Cougar Health Services website.

Is it still WSU policy that proof of vaccination (i.e., documentation) will be a condition for Spring 2022 registration?

To be considered compliant with WSU’s vaccination requirement, students must have provided proof of vaccination or filed an exemption prior to September 10, 2021. Any current student who did not provide proof of vaccination or file an exemption was unable to register for the spring 2022 semester. The process to provide proof of vaccination or file an exemption is available on the Cougar Health website.

What is the university’s policy regarding gatherings outside of the classroom?

Current COVID guidance for the university, including events, is available on the Environmental Health and Safety website.

Will students be informed if one of their classmates is diagnosed with Covid-19?

All close contacts identified during contact tracing will be informed. This would apply to students sitting within 6 feet of the infected person, but not the whole class. Some protected privacy considerations apply concerning a student’s COVID status. The CDC and DOH only recommend testing, isolation, or quarantine for vaccinated people if they experience COVID-like symptoms.

Is there a process for listing students who are not wearing masks so they may be reviewed by appropriate offices to see if unvaccinated students are adhering to the mask requirement?

WSU is coordinating compliance with its vaccination requirement (and subsequent mask requirement) centrally. Faculty and staff should not maintain lists of masked or unmasked students.

Will COVID-19 related serious illnesses and fatalities related to WSU campus be reported to national oversight?

WSU must report COVID cases and fatalities to the Department of Health. WSU must also report workplace infections affecting 10 or more employees in a 2-week period to L&I.

Will the capacity limits for each classroom be posted?

Previous COVID classroom capacities were based upon the 6 feet distancing requirement. Given that distancing is no longer required for institutions of higher education with a vaccination requirement, classroom capacities are now based upon fire codes, and posted in most classrooms. If not posted, the capacity defaults to the number of seats or work areas within the classroom.

What are the recommended spacing/social distancing rules?

Per Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-12.4, institutions of higher education with a vaccination requirement do not have social distancing requirements.

Are instructors setting assigned seating so there is a system in place for identifying close contacts?

Instructors may assign seating if they prefer.

What is WSU doing to reduce exposure of staff who may interact with students in poorly ventilated office spaces?

WSU requires vaccination for all faculty, staff, and students. If WSU personnel have reason to suspect their vaccination to be less effective, based upon a health condition affecting their immune system, they may contact HRS Disability Services for an accommodation.

Will WSU identify and improve ventilation in buildings/offices/classrooms and other spaces that might present greater exposure risk to staff and students?

WSU increased the outdoor air contribution in buildings with forced air ventilation systems that could accommodate the demand. WSU evaluated HVAC performance against CDC recommendations and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidance for airborne contaminant containment efficiency. Based upon those evaluations and anticipated COVID sources WSU anticipates sufficient ventilation to assist in mitigating infection. Not all WSU buildings and locations have forced air ventilation.

How does the university plan to enforce the indoor mask mandate for students, faculty, and staff? 

All students, faculty, and staff, at WSU are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and required to wear masks indoors in public spaces. Individuals not adhering to WSU COVID policy will be subject to disciplinary action.

How can we make sure that the probability of an outbreak is minimized (close to zero)? 

Get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear high quality masks indoors and in crowds.

When will the University put out a recommendation that on-campus meetings should go back to in-person?

WSU presently encourages in-person meetings, while wearing masks indoors, while allowing for a virtual meeting component to accommodate those that cannot attend in person.

If a student is unvaccinated, can I ask them to meet with me remotely instead of meeting in my office?

Instructors may elect to hold office hours virtually but should provide access to all students equitably.

If a student is unvaccinated, can I ask them to participate remotely instead of attending class?

No, instructors must treat students equally and WSU’s accreditation applies to in-person instruction, except for our Global Campus.

If we don’t have a list of non-vaccinated students, what protections are there for instructors, especially for those with young unvaccinated children at home who teach large section classes?

WSU requires students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated, and requires masks for everyone indoors in public spaces. If WSU personnel have reason to suspect their vaccination to be less effective, based upon a health condition affecting their immune system, they may contact HRS Disability Services for an accommodation. Eligible faculty can also file a COVID-19 modified duties request.

If a student appears ill, can they be asked to leave a space (classroom, office, building etc.)?

Yes, if a student appears ill, ask them to leave. If conflict arises call WSU Police at their non-emergency dispatch number 509-335-8548 on the Pullman Campus, 360-546-9001 on the Vancouver Campus, 509-358-7995 for Campus Security on the Spokane Campus, and 509-372-7234 for Campus Security on the Tri-Cities Campus.

If a student is uncomfortable with in-person classes, where may I direct them?

If a student is not comfortable with in-person courses, they may contact their advisor to discuss enrollment in WSU Global Campus.