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Reflection on Transition

Posted by:
March 11, 2022

To: Students and Employees
From: COVID-19 Task Force

Dear PLU Community,

Earlier this week, it was announced that PLU will be transitioning to a mask optional policy in alignment with state and county policy changes. While this next phase may bring excitement and relief for some, it can also bring uneasiness and anxiety for others. Though we are together in community here at PLU, we each bring our own perspectives of how we have experienced the past two years in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reflection on Transition

This pandemic has been deeply disruptive to our peace of mind, to our connections with each other, and to our previous safe places. This transition to new guidelines and policies around masking comes around the two-year anniversary of our lives being turned upside down. We have moved through wave after wave of new guidance, new ways to keep ourselves and each other safe, and new guidelines about how to show care. Thus, for those who celebrate the transition to masking optional, for those who strongly prefer to keep their masks on, and for those many who exist in the gradations in-between, yet another transition is likely to bring confusion, uncertainty, and challenges to communal trust.

We have been prompted, prodded, and strongly urged to be on alert and on guard for two years. For much of that time, our masks were one of few defenses against risk, a symbol of how we express our value of care in community. We can expect that this transition (like most transitions, including ones we have already been through) will be stressful. It will take time to adjust to lowered and more nuanced, complex levels of alert. Our community members will have differing timelines and needs.

As we navigate yet another transition together, we invite PLU community members to care for themselves by acknowledging what this transition will look like and mean for them individually- what pacing and places are right for them in removing their own mask. We invite new investment in our value of showing care- demonstrated through choosing to engage one another with empathy, co-constructing brave and humble conversations with one another, and continuing to take personal responsibility by staying home when sick and masking up when exposed.

For additional support and tools as we transition into this next phase, The PLU Counseling Center will be offering a workshop on Wednesday, March 16th titled: Navigating the Masking Transition: Tools for Transition and Complex Conversation

Location : AUC CK

Time: 5:00pm – 6:00pm

New Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Recent changes regarding a shift to “masks optional” in Washington State, Pierce County, and here at PLU have led to a lot of questions. A new FAQ section has been added to the COVID-19 Web Page. Here you will find answers to a number of common questions from across the PLU Community. If you are wondering things like: “Can I still wear a mask?”, “Does my mask still protect me?”, or “What is the process at PLU when it comes to informing policy changes for Covid-19?”

The Covid Community Level in Pierce County

One question being asked is about the discrepancy between the CDC reporting that Pierce County is at a “High Community Level” and the decision at the state and county level to move forward with masks optional. In actuality, Pierce County is at a “Medium Community Level”, which allows for certain mandates to relax. Metrics in Pierce County continue to decline steeply from where we were at the peak of the Omicron wave. The Tacoma Pierce County Health Department has recently shared a blog post explaining the true community level in the county. As of Friday, 3/11, the CDC has updated their community level data to include Pierce County at medium.

Practicing Dialogue

As we move through this transition together, connecting with each other in open dialogue is a key way of showing care and respect for each other.  Here are a few questions you might consider using to start a dialogue in your classes, and with friends, family, and roommates.

  • What emotion(s) did you experience when you first learned about PLU’s change in mask policy?
  • What do masks mean to you?
  • What is your “why” for choosing to wear a mask or take off the mask?
  • What are you worried about around this topic?

COVID policies moving forward, what’s next?

The COVID website continues to be the first place to check for what the current information regarding covid is on campus. Please check our policies page for all current requirements. Major updates will continue to be announced via all campus emails.

In the coming months, we expect to receive additional information from the state regarding updates to higher education specific requirements. The Covid Task Force will continue to evaluate and make recommendations based on this evolving information. And, if guidance suggests, we will reinstate the mask mandate.

At this time, PLU is committed to ensuring access to testing, maintaining our improved ventilation standards, extending on campus clinics for vaccines/boosters until March 23rd, and maintaining quarantine/isolation capacity as well as screening testing for people who have been exposed to COVID-19.

There’s still work to do!

It is important that community members continue to hold themselves accountable to monitoring their health. Stay home when you are sick or experiencing symptoms. Get tested. Stay up to date on your COVID vaccine by getting boosters when eligible.

The virus is different now. This new era is marked by the reality that we are safely able to lift measures around masking while acknowledging that we will continue to live with the COVID virus into the foreseeable future, as we transition to an endemic stage. The COVID-19 Task Force will continue to monitor the situation as long as necessary and adapt to any future guidance should face masks be required again.

In community,

Teri Phillips
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
COVID-19 Site Supervisor

Shawn Thompson
Associate Director of Emergency Programs
COVID-19 Task Force Coordinator

Michelle Ceynar
Dean of Social Sciences
Professor of Psychology

Mike Snyder
Director of Athletics and Recreation

Chris Albert
Director of Web Development & Design