Emails from President Salsbury
May 5 email from President Greg Salsbury
As the school year wraps up this week, I am awed by the speed and diligence with which you adapted to an unprecedented change to society and education. You supported each other, finished courses strongly and kept the pioneering attitude of a Mountaineer. Thank you.
While it is difficult to know precisely what August will bring, I am eager to see you all back on campus in a few short months this Fall. Currently, we plan to host classes on campus and welcome you back to Gunnison for the 2020-21 academic year.
Your health and safety are the most important factor in our decision making. As the summer plays out, we will continue to monitor the public health situation.
In the meantime, please register for fall courses if you have not done so already.
We are looking forward to a bustling Western community in August filled with discussions, labs, events, Mountaineer spirit, and you.
May 1 email from President Greg Salsbury
COVID-19 Hardship Funding: You Can Apply Through 5/15
Good Morning Western Students:
Today we initiate a process to reduce the unusual financial strain related to COVID-19. Though you have received a high volume of Western email recently, please read this message in full if you would like consideration for COVID-19-related financial relief.
One provision of the newly passed Federal CARES Act directs Western Colorado University to make available—directly to students—emergency grants to cover expenses for COVID-19-related disruption of campus operations. Categories for which valid expenses may be considered include (but are not limited to):
- Course Materials
- Health Expenses
- Child Care
Western Colorado University is now accepting applications for financial relief from students enrolled full time in a residential Western degree program as of March 13, 2020. The vast majority of Western students are eligible for this funding, with limited exceptions outlined on the application.
We encourage you to provide specific details of expenses that you have incurred directly as a result of COVID-19 circumstances since March 1, 2020. (Please do not include on this form expenses related to Spring 2020 campus room, board and fees, addressed in an April 24 memo.)
Western has established a committee to review applications and recommend cash awards based on CARES Act funds available and the nature and volume of applications received. We will notify applicants of their award status as quickly as possible, and we will launch the disbursement process shortly after May 15.
We hope this will provide a bridge to enable Western to meet key financial needs for Western students or impending graduates. Please contact Dean of Students Gary Pierson with questions on this process, or if you have significant COVID-19-related expenses but do not meet eligibility criteria outlined on the application. Let’s hope for better days ahead together, and I look forward to seeing you on campus in the fall.
April 23 email from President Greg Salsbury
Reimbursement of some Spring 2020 Western room, board, fees
Dear Western Students,
Though the sudden need for Western students to vacate or severely limit campus presence after Spring Break was essential to preserve your health and welfare, we know this was a major inconvenience. I appreciate your patience as we have worked to resolve policy, contractual, and accounting variables on funds you have paid for room, board or fees through the 2019-20 academic year.
Today, I announce reimbursement of some charges you may have incurred on Spring 2020 residence hall housing, dining plans and most student fees. The form and amount will vary based on your own circumstances and commitments. We are reimbursing you these specific prepaid charges:
- Residence Hall housing cost for March 23 (day after original Spring Break) through May 8 (end of Spring term), for students who did not remain in campus housing after Spring Break and who are not receiving a scholarship covering room costs.
- Meal plan costs for March 23 – May 8 for students who had a meal plan, did not remain in campus housing after Spring Break and who are not receiving a scholarship covering meal plan costs. The reimbursement will include any prepaid Flex Plan balances. Graduates and non-returning students on Mountaineer 20/40/80 Plans will be reimbursed; returning students’ 20/40/80 plans will roll over to the 2020-21 academic year.
- Student fees for March 23 – May 8 for mandatory Student Government Association, Athletics and Sustainability fees. If you paid optional Renewable Energy, Campus Recreation and Scholarly Activity fees, you will be reimbursed for that March 23 – May 8 interval
These charges will be reimbursed as follows:
- For graduating or non-returning students: In the form of cash refund (less other outstanding student-account balances), to be credited to linked account at student’s financial institution (if set up) or by check to your permanent address on record. We request that non-graduating students notify Student Financial Services directly of intent not to return by June 1 in order to receive a cash refund.
- For returning students: In the form of a scholarship reflecting all reimbursable prepaid costs specified above, credited to tuition, room or board balances for the 2020-21 academic year.
To initiate the process for refund or scholarship for residence hall charges, you must have moved out and have completed a Room Condition Contract; contractually stipulated charges for roomdamage and unreturned keys will be debited. Graduating or non-returning students will have housing deposits reimbursed; returning students will have housing deposits credited toward 2020-21 balances.
You’ll soon be able to check on your reimbursement or scholarship amount and itemization in your MyWestern account. If you have questions on room and board, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions on Western account balances, contact email@example.com.
I am sad to see that our activities in Gunnison have been short-circuited this spring by COVID-19, as our campus and communal culture is so important to the Western experience. I hope this message finds you well, and adds clarity and comfort during a stressful time for our finances, health and welfare. I eagerly await your return to campus as continuing students in the fall, or at our September 26 Commencement and as alumni in the years to come.
April 8 email from President Greg Salsbury
9/26/20: New Commencement Date for Western Colorado University
Dear Western community,
Commencement is a special milestone—for Western graduates and their families, and for faculty, staff and the broader Western community who celebrate our students’ achievements and progress toward future success and happiness.
The cancellation of our original May 9th event has led us to talk and think about the nature of commencement. We certainly want to commemorate our students’ achievement as soon as they earn it, and later this spring we will mark this moment by mailing graduates their diplomas. But we also want to celebrate collectively as a Western family.
As you may know, we directly asked graduating students for their input on a revised commencement date. Based on that feedback, I now announce we are rescheduling Commencement 2020 for 10 a.m. Saturday, September 26, 2020, at Mountaineer Bowl here on the Western Colorado University campus. This date will allow us to celebrate in person in Gunnison, at the peak of fall foliage season. Though this option was overwhelmingly preferred by student-survey respondents to other options, we knew that any date we chose might prove inconvenient or frustrating to some. We tried to make the best choice we could under the circumstances.
This September Commencement will have all the pomp and circumstance of a typical May ceremony, with speakers, individual honoring of each undergraduate and graduate-program honoree, and a post-ceremony reception. Some graduate programs may host their own virtual commencements this spring, and would reach out to relevant students on that front—in any case, we emphatically encourage our graduate program graduates to join us also on September 26.
Despite the near-term uncertainty of coronavirus and evolving travel and lodging rules, we remain hopeful that by Fall Semester we’ll have resumed normal campus operations. We certainly will remain vigilant to situational changes that may warrant further adaptation for a Fall Commencement. On a bright note, airfare is cheaper than it’s been in years; check your carrier for flight-change and refund criteria. You can try booking lodging now, though we will follow up later this spring as circumstances become clearer for local lodgers.
Anyone who cannot attend September 26 will be invited to join next year’s graduates at Western’s May 2021 Commencement. Students who already bought caps, gowns, and tassels who cannot attend may contact Teri Haus at 970-943-7195 for refund/return info, as well as book buy-back info.
We are all in this together. September 26, I hope you join me as we walk together.
March 27 email from President Greg Salsbury
Dear Western Community,
For 100+ years, Western has prepared students to adapt rapidly, responsibly and resiliently to change. It has also been 100+ years since the world has seen a pandemic of this magnitude and one which has put our teachings to the test. I am pleased to say that we have been up to the task. The Western community and broader Gunnison Valley has rallied these past few weeks to prepare for new realities, and hopefully for better days to come. Consider how residents scrambled Wednesday to adapt to Colorado’s new “stay at home” order—except in the Gunnison Valley, where we had begun taking such safety measures many days earlier. At Western, 1,200+ Western folks signed up for Zoom accounts (a 3,500% increase in three weeks) and held 2,100 videoconferences—a number that will jump Monday, March 30 as Western faculty and students begin classes online to finish the Spring 2020 semester. Thanks to everyone who helped facilitate the logistics for all of this and thanks to all of you who had to make these adjustments.
Here are two important updates—on student fee credits/refunds, and on work-study compensation—for the Western community before the weekend.
Credits and refunds on student fees. We continue to explore specifics around prorated student fee credits. We, along with every other public higher-ed institution in the state, are in consultation with State of Colorado authorities for guidance. We hope to share a detailed plan with the campus community for prorated student fee credits soon. Note: 1) prorated credits for student fees are in addition to prorated credits for on-campus student housing; and 2) credits would apply to returning students, while refunds would apply to non-returning and graduating students. Those requesting refunds will need to process through financial aid. Students who received federal financial aid (including grants, student loans and parent loans) may require an adjustment of their aid prior to a partial refund being issued.
Work Study Guidance for Students, Supervisors, and Department Budget Authorities. We want to ensure Western student employees can sustain their livelihoods in these unprecedented times. Wednesday, Western agreed to continue paying all student employees (state work-study, federal work-study, GA/TAs, and others) through May 1, 2020. Below are pertinent details.
- Each student’s supervisor will determine whether that student can work on campus, or remotely. Some student employees will continue to work on campus while others may be able to work remotely.
- Student employees unable to work on campus or remotely will be paid as if they worked their regular schedule.
- Supervisors will receive details on how to enter student’s regular work hours next week, before the next payroll deadline.
Student Employees Responsibilities
- Student employees should contact their supervisor immediately to determine if they can work on campus, remotely, or not at all. Student employees not returning to Gunnison and those who work in units moved off-campus through May 1, fall into the “unable to work” category.
- While working remotely, employees are expected to maintain regular contact with their supervisors.
- Employees should be available during their regular work hours to answer any questions from supervisors.
- Student employees should verify their regularly scheduled work hours with their supervisor.
- Employees should review their paychecks after payday to ensure that correct hours were submitted for payment.
- All student employees should sign up for Direct Deposit through MyWestern to ensure they are paid as quickly as possible.
- Supervisors should be available during their regular work hours to answer any questions their employees may have.
- Supervisors are expected to maintain regular (no less than once a week) contact with employees working remotely.
- Supervisors should communicate weekly with student employees who will be in Gunnison through May 1 but whose unit operations have moved remote, to verify that conditions have not changed.
- Supervisors will need to enter regularly scheduled work hours for all student employees (even if they cannot work) by the payroll deadline, to ensure they are paid.
- For students paid by stipend: Supervisors should submit monthly stipend reports by the payroll deadline
Campus departments may not transfer institutional funds for earmarked student employment to other budget areas of their budget: we must use all budgeted student employment funds to support student workers.
Don’t forget to check Your Questions—Answered to see if a concern you have has been addressed on that frequently updated page. And rest up this weekend. Soon we hope to be talking less of drastic changes we must make, and more of the great strides in teaching, learning and achieving that we all will make together.
March 26 email from President Greg Salsbury
Dear Western Community,
We have learned of a second member of the Western community who has self-reported their positive confirmed test for COVID-19. The test for this individual—a student who lived in off-campus housing, and whose roommate is unaffiliated with Western—was administered March 21, by which time they already had been out of town for one week, having left Western for Spring Break March 14. The student indicates first experiencing symptoms March 18. We have been in contact with the student in the last 24 hours, and we are encouraged that this individual is doing much better and self-quarantining at their home away from Gunnison County.
Western’s COVID-19 Task Force has developed procedures for notification and mitigation of confirmed positive cases. These procedures vary somewhat based on specific circumstances, but in this particular case, steps taken have included:
- The student notified a faculty member, who then communicated relevant information about the positive test to the Task Force Chair, the Dean of Students and the Director of Human Resources. Though the student’s identity is protected by HIPAA, the Human Resources Director may receive information enabling targeted individual communications and appropriate mitigating responses (such as building cleaning).
- Upon learning the student’s course schedule and classroom and campus work presences the week before Spring Break, the Director of Human Resources contacted faculty and staff who may had been in contact with the student, and the Dean of Students contacted students who may have been in a class with the student.
- The academic buildings accessed—already closed beginning last week to non-essential personnel—have had access restricted further, and enhanced cleaning and sanitation procedures have been undertaken in locations in which the student was known to have spent time the week before break. (The virus’s lifespan on surfaces, per a New England Journal of Medicine study released this week, ranges from a few hours to a few days.)
- The Dean of Students notified Gunnison County’s Public Health Director, in continuation of daily connectivity and coordination between campus and community that has been ongoing for weeks as COVID-19 persists.
Out of an abundance of caution, we have been preparing for the prospective spread or even acceleration of COVID-19, as is occurring now in many places. As mentioned Monday, due to a shortage of testing, we agree with health officials that confirmed positive tests likely undercount the prevalence of COVID-19, and we advise individuals experiencing worsening COVID-19 symptoms in the same vein as we would confirmed positive diagnoses. We encourage all members of our community to practice vigilant hygiene and social distancing to the greatest extent possible.
Though future positive COVID-19 cases may not be communicated through direct campus-wide email, we will update cases affecting Gunnison County and the Western community as frequently as possible at western.edu/cv (see tabs on right side of page for these data links).
While we fervently prepare during this Reading and Study Week for the March restart of classes in distance modes, we wanted to inform you of this case and how we are responding to support safety and welfare for the individuals who have left campus, and for those who remain.
March 24 email from President Greg Salsbury
Dear Western Faculty and Staff,
The Gunnison County Health and Human Services Department has amended its Standing Public Health Order (which has had several versions since being initiated this past week). Parts of this order are essential to the Western community.
The order directs (quoting language from the order)
(see section II.N.) “All persons who have traveled more than 24 hours away from Gunnison County [since] March 13, 2020… and who reside in high-density housing… are hereby ordered, under penalty of law, to isolate and quarantine themselves from all other persons, without exception, for a period of at least 7 days from the data such person returns to Gunnison County.”; and
(see section II.P.) “If persons who travel outside of Gunnison County for any period of time are strongly encouraged to isolate themselves for a period of at least seven (7) days from the date such person returns to Gunnison County”.
The full text can be found under the Public Health Orders tab on this page.
In short, if you have traveled outside of Gunnison, perhaps over Spring Break, the County asks you strongly consider seven (7) days of self-isolation.
For your and the safety of others, please continue to practice social distancing while following the strict CDC guidelines to protect yourself and others.
March 23 email from President Greg Salsbury
Dear Members of the Western Family,
This morning, we learned that a Western employee has tested positive for COVID-19. This employee’s last known campus contact with students and faculty was in the Quigley building on Friday, March 13. The employee has already reached out directly to students with whom they knew they had contact with that day, but also is known to have spent most of their time in Quigley when on campus the week prior to Spring Break. The employee experienced their first symptoms over spring break. Though the employee had fever and headache symptoms over spring break, we are encouraged that their symptoms have subsided, and they are self-quarantining at home. We have been in contact with this employee, and are doing all we can to support them at this time.
Though this is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Western Colorado University, we are aware of several members of the Western community who are self-quarantining based on COVID-19-like symptoms. Due to a shortage of testing, we agree with health officials that confirmed positive tests may significantly undercount the likely prevalence of COVID-19.
As a result—and with Gunnison County seeing high coronavirus prevalence—we anticipate other confirmed or likely COVID-19 cases affecting the Western community will arise. Additionally, we address worsening COVID-19 symptoms in the same vein as we would confirmed positive diagnoses. We encourage all members of our community to practice vigilant hygiene and social distancing to the greatest extent possible
We wanted to let you know about this case quickly after becoming aware of it. If and as other cases are diagnosed, this information will be updated as frequently as possible at Western’s COVID-19 site at western.edu/cv. Future positive cases may not be communicated through direct campus-wide email.
We now reiterate changes Western has made to minimize prevalence and spread of COVID-19, and reinforce public health guidance on what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms:
- We strongly advise that—with the exception of those now self-isolating—all individuals who need not be on Western campus or in Gunnison County should either stay home or—if a student who has a healthier place to stay outside the county—leave now for their year-round residence. Residence halls remain open to students who have no better housing option, and we are remaining apprised as possible of conditions in occupied residence halls to support their health and safety.
- We have taken most Western buildings offline (they are either closed, or only accessible to essential individuals with key-card access), and have enhanced cleaning procedures on buildings that still require occupation.
- Saturday, Gunnison County made its standing public health order more stringent.
- It now requires—by law—that any student in residence hall or multi-unit (3+) apartment complexes who left Gunnison County Friday, March 13 or after to self-isolate for at least 7 days upon return to Gunnison County.
- It also strongly recommends anyone who has left Gunnison County for more than a 24-hour period, even if they live in single-family housing, to self-isolate for 7 days.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms fever (100.5+ degrees), cough (new or worsening), shortness of breath (new or worsening):
- Stay or return home, and self-isolate for at least 7 days.
- Complete Gunnison County’s COVID-19 Self-Report Form.
- Call the Gunnison County Health Hotline: 970-641-7660 if these symptoms worsen following self-report on the county form.
We will soon send other important impacting Reading & Study Week and distance learning for the rest of the Spring 2020 semester. Today, we wanted to get this news out to you as soon as possible, and will continue to provide critical updates as circumstances warrant.
March 20 email from President Greg Salsbury
Members of the Western Family,
This week has been quite a week. Our Western task force has had to make daunting adjustments on the fly since the COVID-19 public crisis accelerated in the Gunnison Valley (and in much of the U.S. and world) these last 7 to 10 days. You too have made daunting adjustments to ensure we can continue teaching, learning, and sharing the Western experience together. This will be a new kind of experience for the final six weeks of the Spring 2020 term. I look forward to working with Western’s incredible teams to adapt to change on behalf of us.
As Spring Break closes, a few quick pre-Reading & Study Week updates:
- Student Guidance: This morning, Dr. Abel Chávez messaged students and families directly about Reading & Study Week, Distance Learning Prep, and Campus Housing Move-out Procedures; Contact Abel with questions on this guidance, or find it in this page’s Student Resources section.
- Latest Local Health/Travel Alerts: People who need not be in Gunnison County are still advised to stay away at this time. Campus housing remains open to students for whom it’s their best option; most businesses and public services are closed and County residents are currently advised to avoid nonessential interaction outside the home. Recent County health alerts can be viewed at this page: see County Public Health Orders tab.
- Let us know ASAP if you are a student and must return to campus housing for the week of March 23. Anyone who has visited a CDC Level 2 or 3 country (including all of Europe) must self-isolate of campus until 14 days have passed.
- Facilities Access: Thursday, we released new near-term guidance restricting access to most campus buildings to most stakeholders. For a detailed facility access updates, view the Campus Operations section of this page.
- Western CARES: We know students may be dealing with unexpected financial adversity due to COVID-19 disruption. Yesterday, the Western Colorado University Foundation relaunched the Western CARES fund to mitigate financial challenges—from internet access, to housing, to transportation—students may encounter at this time. You can donate to this effort here.
- Your Questions—Answered: We know it’s hard to keep track of all the fast-changing guidance. That’s why we’ve developed this webpage as a hub for updates on topics too comprehensive to cover in these emails.
It is rare that everyone in the world is dealing with the same situation at the same time. Unlike 9/11, to which this current crisis is often now compared, we are being hobbled by a virus that is invisible. These days remind us that everyone is fighting a battle we cannot see.
This is an important time to keep Western community hallmarks of kindness, empathy and resilience at the forefront. We are all in this together. Please sign off, find ways to connect with the people you are closest to (even if you cannot touch), and enjoy the weekend.
March 17 email from President Greg Salsbury
Dear Western Community,
We have noted previously that the COVID-19 situation is fluid and changes daily, sometimes hourly. The Western COVID-19 Task Force is meeting daily and conferring periodically with a host of other governmental and community organizations and individuals including but not limited to the CDC, other universities, the Governor’s office, our local Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group, the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the Gunnison mayor and other city officials, and the county Department of Health and Human Services. Given our consultations over the last 24 hours we have made some additional decisions beyond the three-week threshold we outlined last week. We announce the following:
We will deliver all Western curriculum solely online (or through other distance modalities) for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, extending the suspension of on campus classes through semester’s end.
Next week (March 23-27), the week after Spring Break, will be designated as Reading & Study Week, a common practice at several institutions of higher learning that will allow faculty and students to engage with course material in meaningful ways and allow both the students and faculty to better prepare for the new distance learning format that will follow for the remainder of the semester. We will not hold classes in any form this week. Our Vice President of Student Success (Dr. Chávez) and Vice President of Academic Affairs (Dr. Niemi) will soon be in touch with students, and faculty, respectively with guidance.
Other 2019-20 academic-year events and activities on campus, including Spring Fest, Women at Western weekend, and commencement, are cancelled, unless exempted by the President. In tandem we reiterate existing suspensions of Western-sponsored and -associated business travel, and a mandate for all individuals who have traveled to a CDC Level 2 or Level 3 country (incl. all of Europe) to self-isolate for 14 days before accessing campus.
Students in residence halls can remain there over Spring Break and through the end of the semester, but are advised to practice social distancing. “Grab-and-go" food-service options are available at Mad Jack’s for lunch and dinner from Sodexo, and will expand to three daily meal intervals next week. We now advise that any students now away on Spring Break who need not return to campus housing should not do so unless unavoidable. For students for whom campus housing is their best and only option, we will welcome you back and do all we can to support your health and well-being. We know this will prompt questions ranging from move-out of belongings to economic considerations. Though we cannot clarify every question on this front today, be alert in the coming days for updates and coordination.
If you are in Gunnison County and have COVID-19 symptoms, please self-report it at www.gunnisoncounty.org/covid19 and stay home; if your symptoms worsen, call 970-641-7660. Visitors are discouraged from visiting Gunnison County unless they have essential reason to be there. Individuals in Gunnison County are strongly advised to avoid non-essential physical interaction, and to practice social distancing if interaction is necessary. As reported yesterday, public gatherings of 10+ people within the county are now prohibited until further notice.
While Western residence halls, University Center and other core facilities and operations remain open to staff, faculty and students whose physical presence is essential—with Western personnel who can work remotely, now strongly advised to do so—we are very aware that COVID-19 disproportionately impacts Colorado high mountain communities including our own.
As we learn hour by hour, this unusual time calls not only for us to take these precautions, but also reflects mandates or strong advisement by federal, state and local health authorities, reducing our near-term discretion on these matters.
As of this memorandum, there are ten positive COVID-19 cases that have been announced in Gunnison County. We are acting rapidly, including heightening cleaning measures in buildings that remain open, and taking offline facilities that need not be open right now, but additional measures may be warranted.
Be on the lookout for more updates from us in the next 24 to 48 hours. Specifically:
If you are a Western student: Expect follow-up tomorrow from Dr. Abel A. Chávez, vice president of student success and leader of Western’s COVID-19 Task Force.
If you are a Western faculty member: Expect follow-up tomorrow from Dr. William Niemi, vice president of academic affairs.
In addition to direct updates I will continue to send you, please continue to check western.edu/cv, for frequent updates on COVID-19 circumstances pertaining to Western. I also welcome you to submit questions you may want to see addressed in our new Your Questions—Answered section at this link. Thank you for your patience as we continue to work through this challenging situation together.
March 16 email from President Greg Salsbury
Western Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Following my Friday communication, today I send a new update for the Western community. Because of the fluidity of the situation, please check this page for frequent COVID-19-related updates pertaining to Western—not every possible update can be included in this email, and many additional questions are answered in the Your Questions—Answered section of western.edu/cv.
Commencement: In the wake of CDC guidance announced Sunday that mass gatherings (defined as 50 or more participants) should not be held for the next eight weeks, we regretfully announce we must explore other options for commencement, and must postpone the May 9 event in Gunnison. We are at the early stages of discussion on how we will celebrate our Spring 2020 graduates, with possibilities including a campus event in the early summer or the early fall. We plan to communicate updates on how we intend to handle commencement by April 3. It is heartbreaking to have to consider an alternative to a ceremony in the beautiful Gunnison springtime, but we must heed the direction of health authorities so will try to identify an alternative that honors our graduates appropriately.
Travel and Post-Travel Self-Isolation: We reiterate and further clarify Western travel policies:
Suspension of all non-essential Western-sponsored business travel (now including all Athletics travel) until further notice
Suspension of all university-sponsored and university-associated travel
All faculty, staff and students who have traveled to a CDC Level 2 or Level 3 country must self-isolate for a full 14-day period before returning to campus, regardless of purpose of travel.
Though this now applies to all travel through Monday, April 6, anyone planning such travel through the end of the academic year should account for the prospect of cancellation. We continue to assess how this guidance may affect activities for the rest of the school year and expect to communicate further on this front in the next days.
Self-Assessment for Western Affiliates Staying in Gunnison: We know many students, faculty and staff remain in the Gunnison Valley over Spring Break. To assist in the county’s management of COVID-19 monitoring and response, in a time in which tests are scarce, anyone in the Gunnison region with symptoms is now strongly advised to take this self-assessment so that appropriate guidance can promptly be given on individual conditions during a time in which local personnel resources are stretched.
Gatherings and Social Distancing: Per Gunnison County order, all campus and Gunnison County gatherings of 10+ individuals are prohibited until further notice. This reflects a Monday tightening of guidance on gatherings originally introduced Friday evening, and which Saturday was extended to include Crested Butte Mountain Resort (now closed through March 22) and all Colorado ski resorts. New guidance from the CDPHE strongly advises all visitors and residents of Eagle, Summit, Pitkin, and Gunnison counties to minimize social contact at this time.
In addition to our guidance for anyone who feels they have COVID-19 symptoms—to call the Gunnison COVID-19 hotline at 970-641-7660 (if local), and to stay home—health authorities advocate social distancing (avoiding congregate settings, and maintaining distance of six feet between individuals) to limit spread of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19. In the last 48 hours, national and local health conditions have evolved such that it is now recommended that if you do not need to go out or engage in community interaction, it is best to remain home. Anyone with symptoms (cough, fever, and shortness of breath) must self-isolate for 7-10 days after their onset.
We recognize this is a major disruption in the short term, but we will update as soon as we hear changes or clarifications to this guidance. Check this site for daily-updated information related to Gunnison County and COVID-19.
Library Closure; Revised Facilities Schedules: We have closed the Savage Library on campus to the public and to non-library staff through April 8. We also draw your attention to other revised hours for facilities such as the University Center, the Mountaineer Field House, and others key updates in the Your Questions—Answered section of western.edu/cv. This Q-and-A section updates may lag fast-moving changes in circumstance, but please submit questions critical to Western guidance that seem unanswered, and we will do our best to provide timely updates.
Distance Instruction and Next Steps: We are rapidly developing the technical capacity to use distance modalities to deliver Western Spring Semester courses beginning March 23, the Monday following Spring Break. Some universities are announcing they will be using online modality for instruction for the rest of this semester. We may do that as well and realize that you will have a number of questions if so. We expect a decision in that regard very soon but are still sorting through considerations for each alternative – in-person and online/distance learning. These considerations are very different for each university and each physical location. The detail required to outline these logistics is beyond the scope of this memo, but all faculty should now be considering how they can deliver their curriculum through distance modalities, which may include real-time videoconferencing formats (recognizing that this format may be imperfect for, say, a band rehearsal or wildlife fieldwork, and flexibility and creativity may be warranted), and to work with IT to obtain necessary equipment—at very least now, a laptop and a WiFi-enabled location.
Students too should look now to secure equipment needed to be online remotely during their class hours, and a regular location where they can effectively participate in distance instruction with no distraction.
I will continue to provide the Western community with important updates on COVID-19-related topics over Spring Break. I hope you are enjoying the longer days and warmer weather as we move forward together.
March 13 email from President Greg Salsbury
Western Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Sorry to add further to your inbox but a lot is unfolding quickly. It seems like much time has passed since the beginning of this week, when we had stated we were still in a “business as usual mode.” We now are responding to unusual operational and personal challenges hourly. Yet our goal remains the same: to educate students, operate effectively, and support the health and welfare of our community. With that, we provide the following updates as we enter Spring Break next week and encourage you to check western.edu/cv for COVID-19-related updates pertaining to Western.
Travel: We reiterate and further clarify Western travel policies outlined earlier this week:
- Suspension of all non-essential Western-sponsored business travel (now including all Athletics travel) until further notice
- Strong discouragement of all non-essential travel related to Western activities (university-sponsored, or not)
- I have empowered my senior cabinet members to assist me in determining “essential” activities for their respective areas.
This now applies to all travel through Monday, April 6, though anyone planning such travel through the end of the academic year should anticipate and account for the prospect of cancellation.
Self-Isolation and Social Distancing: We have already directed that all faculty, staff, and students who have traveled to a CDC Level 2 or Level 3 country must self-isolate for a full 14-day period before returning to campus, regardless of purpose of travel. In addition to countries noted earlier this week, this direction is now extended to included most European countries as specified in the above link. Individuals should also self-isolate if they have traveled to any area within the U.S. in the last 14 days with known COVID-19 community spread.
Gatherings of 50+ Individuals: Following local guidance from the Gunnison Health and Human Services announced this afternoon, all campus and Gunnison County gatherings of 50+ individuals are prohibited until further notice. I know this is a consequential mandate indeed, but in the short term it is advised in a critical period in which vigilance may be the different between containment and community spread.
In addition to the fundamental guidance we now give anyone who feels they have COVID-19 symptoms—to call the Gunnison COVID-19 hotline at 970-641-7660 (if local), and to stay home—health authorities increasingly advocate social distancing (avoiding congregate settings and mass gatherings, and maintaining distance of six feet between individuals) as a strategy for limiting spread of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19. Although not mandated, we encourage this strategy where possible.
I will send my next update this weekend.
March 12 email from President Greg Salsbury
Dear Western Community,
As we watch events unfold related to the COVID-19 pandemic, we know we must act quickly to mitigate risks to our campus community and find alternate ways to maintain campus operations. This morning, I announce that effective end of day today (March 12), we are suspending on-campus classes, and we intend to deliver these classes online and through teleconference from Monday, March 23 through at least Friday, April 3, ideally resuming classes on campus Monday, April 6. Classes scheduled for tomorrow Friday, March 13 are cancelled.
Instruction. Beginning Monday, March 23 (just after Spring Break), we intend to offer Western courses through videoconferencing platform Zoom in real-time on existing Spring schedules. By three weeks from now (April 3), we will evaluate conditions related to COVID-19 and be better positioned to determine an ideal mode for classes through academic year-end.
Campus Events & Travel. Also effective immediately: All campus-sponsored events of 150+ participants are cancelled until further notice. We reiterate Tuesday’s suspension of all non-essential Western-sponsored business travel (excluding NCAA athletics). We also now strongly discourage all non-essential, non-urgent travel related to Western activities. Determinations about essential travel are made only by myself or a direct senior cabinet supervisor.
Campus Operations. Campus will remain open for now and campus-based professional operations at the university will continue—including housing, dining, facilities management and other key functions. We strongly encourage campus unit supervisors to allow staff and faculty who are uncomfortable working on campus to work remotely as feasible, though campus office facilities now remain accessible for work.
Today, please consider all essential equipment or files you need to be able to work from home. You may relocate these resources to a remote working location as soon as possible. I know not all staff have necessary equipment or ability to work remotely; we will try to make arrangements at an individual level as we progress.
We reinforce more strongly than ever that all individuals with respiratory virus symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should stay home and call 970-641-7660, the Gunnison County Health Hotline set up for this purpose.
Residence halls will remain open. We encourage students and other personnel who can reside remotely with family members or peers to do so through Friday, April 3. Meanwhile, we will continue to house the many of you throughout and beyond Spring Break for whom campus accommodation is the best and only option—and we will do our best to support your wellness and welfare.
Latest News. We are very aware of and empathetic to the major logistic and emotional impacts that these changes may have on you. Yet Western’s educational mission is underpinned by our caring for the human beings who are here to teach, learn and help the university run. As of late Wednesday (March 11), 33 presumptive positive COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Colorado, including three in Gunnison County, zero on campus, and circumstances are evolving in ways we cannot control or predict. Despite the inconvenience of these actions, they all are taken with your welfare at the forefront.
Your Questions. We know you have questions we haven’t answered here. We may not yet be able to conclusively answer them, either: we are navigating this evolving situation just as you are. To bridge this gap, we will establish Your Questions—Answered, a section of western.edu/cv, the frequently updated resource for guidance on COVID-19 impact and advisement at Western. Please ask any questions that you want answers to HERE. We cannot promise we will have answers to each question perfectly and immediately. But we can commit to reading them carefully, trying to solve for them responsibly, and updating this page frequently while updating you by email during and after Spring Break. I reiterate my guidance from Tuesday that you should check your email by 6pm March 19 (Thursday), as we are likely to follow up at least once by then.
Correct Information. We know these times prompt spread of information that is hard or impossible to verify on the spot. In any conversation about health risks and appropriate response, stick to information that reflects health authority or campus guidelines. Please do not opine idly, do not convey or encourage rumor, do not present unverified information as true. Refer concerned individuals and issues to Dr. Abel Chavez, lead of Western’s COVID-19 Task Force that has been convening on this issue, and to guidance and updates at sites such as:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Colorado Department for Public Health & Environment
Gunnison County Health & Human Services
Western’s own COVID-19 resource page (this page)
Thank you for helping Western manage as best as it can in this turbulent time. We will communicate critical information as soon as we are able, and overcome adversity together.
March 11 email from President Greg Salsbury
Dear Western Staff,
As we approach Spring Break next week, I want to thank you for your diligence and effort at Western during this turbulent time. I am writing today to update you on campus COVID-19 preparations and advise you on key developments that may affect your perspective and preparation for the rest of the academic year.
You may by now be aware that more than a dozen presumptive positive COVID-19 cases have been reported in Colorado, including one originally classified as a Gunnison County case (later reclassified as a Denver County case and resident, who had visited Crested Butte). That individual, a woman in her 40s who was not hospitalized and is recovering in isolation, has not been identified as presenting a threat to the campus community. However, it further heightens Western’s focus on campus resiliency and need to prepare for evolving operational and teaching scenarios in the near term.
Western since February has been convening a COVID-19 Task Force, and we have launched western.edu/cv, a coronavirus resource page with updates related to campus and the Gunnison Valley community. We know that Spring Break adds a new wrinkle to our planning. Accordingly, we now advise and inform you of the following:
We are curtailing international university-sponsored travel effective now for the rest of the 2019-20 academic year. We also are curtailing all non-essential, university-business-related domestic travel to states that have declared a state of emergency, or outside the Gunnison Valley within Colorado (which itself has declared a state of emergency). Though we are not now prohibiting competitor travel to athletic competitions, we urge increased caution to Western athletes, coaches, and staff in public non-competitive settings outside Gunnison, and will be alert to changing circumstances that warrant updated guidance. Email here to appeal or if you feel you must be considered for exception to this policy.
During Spring Break, avoid travel to countries with a Level 3 Health Notice level by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and are strongly advised to avoid travel to Level 2 countries. While this now represents a handful of countries that have seen widespread sustained COVID-19 transmission, CDC’s guidance changes regularly, so review the above links if you plan to travel.
We have begun making provisions for online real-time delivery of Western classes for the rest of the academic year, if continued developments warrant a transition away from campus classrooms. We are acquiring videoconferencing licenses and technical infrastructure (including loaner laptops) to enable faculty to teach in that mode. We are in very early stages of exploring off-campus access to Banner, and other accommodations that may be necessary to undertake such a transition. If and as appropriate, we will follow up to elaborate on training and logistics. We encourage you to begin thinking now about how such a change might affect your area if we must transition to online course delivery after Spring Break.
Check your Western email and western.edu/cv for updates likely to be communicated next week, before 6pm MDT Thursday March 19. While Western is now operating in a business-as-usual mode, we are very alert to fast-moving changes that may warrant we alter our guidance. Possible scenarios we are preparing for include extending Spring Break, imposing new campus rules and restrictions, even closing the campus for a period of time. For now, we want to remain open to possible actions necessary for the safety of the campus community, yet also to the prospect that normal operations will and should ultimately prevail.
If you have symptoms that correspond with respiratory viruses such as COVID-19—fever, coughing, shortness of breath—stay at home and call Gunnison dispatch at 970-641-8201 (or your local community dispatch if outside Gunnison County). The dispatcher will ask you a series of questions and recommend next steps on that basis. Do not walk into a local health provider with these symptoms: stay in place.
In balancing preparedness and paralysis, Western is adapting its approach daily based on CDC and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment guidance, and on news of COVID-19 incidence and spread. I recognize this message may likely bring to mind more questions, in particular in relation to online course delivery or logistics: feel free to submit these questions via this link and we will review and act accordingly on them. Thank you for your valued contributions to the Western community.
March 4 email from President Greg Salsbury
Dear Western Community,
Today, I send you more updates in regards to our proactive Coronavirus (or COVID-19) efforts, and I start by sharing that the health and well-being of each member of our Western community is paramount. To that end, we continue monitoring the guidance of federal, state and local public health experts regarding Coronavirus and will share updates with the Western community as appropriate. Western maintains and will follow its emergency response protocol, which may be found here.
We have also created a webpage (located here) that houses the latest information, resources, and all official Western communications pertaining to Coronavirus. Western is presently unaware of any member of our campus community who has traveled to and returned to campus from China, South Korea, or Italy in the past two weeks, which is the CDC’s estimated incubation period for Coronavirus. I also want to remind our community that it is important to seek facts, not fear regarding Coronavirus, and that no member of our campus community should be singled out based upon their personal characteristics.
I direct you to the following for additional information:
Western’s Coronavirus webpage is: western.edu/cv.
If you have any specific question about Coronavirus, I invite you to submit those via the webpage. We’ll review those as quickly as possible, and either respond individually or through Western’s Coronavirus web page.
As you walk around campus, please pause for a minute to carefully review a Coronavirus “Stop the Spread of Germs” flyer now located in various locations across campus.
I also remind you that the CDC advises you to:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Lastly, I’d like to thank the Coronavirus Task Force for swiftly, calmly and thoughtfully organizing the campus in efforts of maintaining our health and safety.
March 1 email from President Greg Salsbury
You might be well aware of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) warning earlier this week that an outbreak of COVID-19 (or Coronavirus) is possible for the United States. Immediately after the CDC issued their warning, several of us initiated a proactive approach to maintain the safety of our community. Today we’d like to share with you that we are reviewing the University’s prior risk management plans to begin drafting a plan specific to what we know about COVID-19 thus far. Additionally, we are working diligently to establish a COVID-19 Task Force who will research and disseminate all relevant communications to the campus. We will soon share Task Force composition, and our COVID-19 response plan.
In the meantime, we do know there are no known cases in Colorado, but we have been proactive. We are partnering with our local and regional municipalities and health officials, as well as the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE). We hope to share further communication and details shortly, but in the meantime, the CDC recommends:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Attached, please find a COVID-19 Fact Sheet provided by CDPHE.
Western Colorado University