COVID-19 Updates & Resources

Executive Communications on COVID-19

Dear Western Community Member,

Take a deep breath. We’re almost there.

With only two more days of classes before Thanksgiving, it’s almost time to take a break and gear up for finals. You have not sat on the sidelines during this pandemic—you have been focused, engaged and furthering your academic career. Now is the time to finish strong, nail those finals and get that much closer to graduation. I want to be back on campus in the Spring, and I know you do as well. I will do my part, you do your part and we’ll have a great Spring in Gunnison. I’ll see you on campus on January 11, 2021.

Travel reminder: Many of you have already traveled to your winter break destination. Yet we still have students on campus preparing to do the same. As a reminder for those of you getting ready to go, here are recommendations based on the American College Health Association:

  • Isolate for seven days before your departure and monitor your health. Contact the Gunnison County COVID-19 Hotline (970-641-7660) if you need more information regarding specific needs.
  • When traveling home, limit the size of your party. Reduce the need to stop, and when you do, make sure you are holding fast to the three Ws: wear your facial covering, wash your hands and wave across a six-foot distance.
  • Upon arrival, it is recommended you quarantine in your home for 14 days as best as possible. This means reducing movement and contact inside, and engaging safely in outdoor activities. If possible, have your own restroom and disinfect it after each use.

Recharge and refocus: Certainly, you will want to recharge during your winter break. But don’t let too much time go by without refocusing on the future. I encourage you to invest some time in your own professional and career development. Whether you are a senior beginning your job search or a student thinking about internships or volunteer opportunities, you can get a jump start during your down time. Handshake is Western’s job and internship platform. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to log in and complete your profile. And when you’re ready to dive in to more specific job and internship search sites, check out the information on the Career Services site (hint: scroll down to “Job & Internship Search.”)

Get your schedule nailed down: If you haven’t set your schedule for spring, do so now! Registration is still open and classes fill on a first come, first served basis. Go to MyWestern to register under Student – Registration.

We know you may be wondering if there will be changes to the spring schedule due to COVID-19. Planning is underway to accommodate the best health and safety practices, but also to add some FUN. My staff is hard at work creating an exciting menu of programming, which may include anything from cookie baking to snow shoeing, yoga to bike riding. As soon as we have the final details regarding the 2021 academic calendar, we will notify you promptly, and reveal the new events.

Once again, congratulations on making it to Thanksgiving week, the goal set in all of our minds at the start of this semester way back in August. There is much to celebrate! You are defying the odds in continuing your journey through higher education to obtain your career dreams. Don’t let them be just dreams. Keep pursuing them no matter what, because we will back on camp­us in January pursuing our dreams together. Remember, you are Western Strong!

Oh, and one more thing. In case you had any doubt about why it’s awesome to study at Western, here’s a little reminder from students Mason Schultz and Emma Brophy.

With warm regards,

Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

It’s been a week for me. I bet it’s been a week for you. But we are Western, and we know how to be Western Strong. We are in the last leg of the Fall 2020 marathon prior to a well-deserved break. Our campus remains open — grab a cup of coffee in the UC, get a work out in at the Field House, study in the library — only classes that have shifted online. This is your campus!

The takeaway as we finish the last two weeks of the semester? DON’T GIVE UP!

Right now, continue to engage in online studies. When in public, wear your mask, and keep your distance when visiting with fellow students and friends. Stay mindful of washing your hands. When we do these simple things, we are better able to sustain some sort of normalcy. Commit yourself to your remaining two weeks and take on finals. Then enjoy the longer break and recharge for the Spring 2021 marathon.

The takeaway as we recharge for the Spring 2021 marathon? What type of Spring do you want? IT’LL BE YOUR MOMENT TO WRITE OUR STORY!

Transitioning home: As you wrap up courses, begin to think through safety practices for making the transition home. Here are recommendations for before, during and after you leave:

  • Isolate for seven days before your departure and monitor your health. Contact the Gunnison County COVID-19 Hotline (970-641-7660) if you need more information regarding specific needs. If you feel it is necessary for you to test before your departure, the call center may be able to direct you to resources, or call your local private health care provider if you have one.
    • When traveling home, limit the size of your party. Reduce the need to stop, and when you do, and make sure you are holding fast to the three Ws: wear your facial covering, wash your hands and wave across a six-foot distance.
    • Upon arrival, it is recommended you quarantine in your home for 14 days as best as possible. This means reducing movement and contact inside, and engaging safely in outdoor activities. If possible, have your own restroom and disinfect it after each use.

This is the best advice we have to provide, as suggested by the American College Health Association. By following these recommendations, family and friends at home are at less risk of exposure to illness.

Student Conduct: While you remain on campus, we urge you to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols. We have observed some who have become lax in wearing masks and maintaining social distance. As a reminder, those who choose to violate these procedures are subject to the Student Conduct process. Sanctions range from community service to possible expulsion.

Case count: As communicated earlier this week, we have begun to look at how reporting procedures can be streamlined so we can bring you the latest information regarding the Western community.

Spring registration: In-person classes are planned to begin January 11. Get your seat in your next class by registering today. Classes are filled on a first come, first served basis. Go to MyWestern to register under Student – Registration.

Once again, I want to remind you that the game has not been called, the performance is not over, you are authoring the story. Western, keep doing what you know to do, and remain in the race until the tape is broken. You are not alone. I am with you, we are with you, Western is all together in fighting a global pandemic, and we intend to come out stronger on the other side. Forward movement is the solution to almost any challenge and we are confident that together we will come out on the other side of this, Western Strong.

Warm regards,

Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Students and Faculty:

We are all concerned about the outbreak of COVID-19 on campus. This situation has evolved rapidly from a period of a few cases to a few dozen cases. Our primary focus has been to care for those who have contracted or been exposed to the virus and contain it as quickly as possible. Staff at Western, Gunnison Valley Health (GVH) and Gunnison County Health and Human Services (HHS) have been working at maximum capacity. We have tried to keep up with the data that you want, but precision and timeliness with those data have been difficult for multiple reasons. We recognize that has been frustrating. Transparency is a vital component in any relationship, so we want to share with you what is being done to make the system more efficient and get you the information you need.

Western is part of a three-pronged partnership created to address COVID-19. GVH performs COVID-19 testing and reports results to both Western staff and Public Health. Once an individual tests positive for novel coronavirus, action must be taken to prevent spread. That involves staff from Public Health working with Western to first quarantine the individual (if they are not already doing so as a result of contact tracing), and then beginning the painstaking task of retracing the steps of this individual. Those who were in close contact with the person are identified, as well as the places where the individuals have been. It takes time and effort, and the process has worked. Of the 56 cases that have been found on Western’s campus since November 1, 75% of them were already in quarantine because they were identified through contact tracing. This greatly reduces the chance of a second generation of infection.

However, because county, hospital, and Western staff are actively working to contain the virus, they don’t always have time to sift through the numbers and data to have it readily available as rapidly as we would like. Although Western is part of the tested population, it does not control or conduct the actual testing or the official reporting of results. Thus, we serve as a “go-between” – between the hospital and our own campus, attempting to provide information ahead of the official source – Gunnison County HHS. Although we sometimes know specific people who have been referred for testing, and maybe even hear of some test results of these specific people, that doesn’t directly translate to us knowing the definitive number of cases for Western at the time – not until we can obtain and analyze the complete information from the hospital. As workloads have mushroomed for both the hospital and the County, the lag times for our reporting have necessarily increased. Likewise, staff at Western are stretched thin as well, and have been pressed to keep up with the case numbers.

Early in the semester we decided to report case counts on a weekly basis. We are endeavoring to create a more efficient way to capture updated data and report those data on a more frequent basis. To compound matters, Monday night Gunnison County reported our updated case count without informing Western. Gunnison County Health and Human Services Director Joni Reynolds apologized for this and promised to come up with a system which allows for everyone to have the same information simultaneously. One option being considered is to have Public Health be the sole source of this information, which can be accessed on Gunnison County’s website.

Faculty, Staff, Students, we hear you. This is a very uncertain time and having current information is vital to your planning and your well-being. Please know that with every positive case that is encountered, action is immediately taken to not only help the individuals involved but to protect both members of Western and the community at large. We cannot stress enough that if you have not been contacted by Public Health, it is because you are considered to be at low risk for being exposed to the virus.

Lastly, we have been told that despite our explanations, there is still some confusion over the difficulty in reporting number of COVID cases on a timely and accurate basis. Let me see if I can shed some light on this.

Western receives information from both GVH and HHS and this information is not always matching. In fact, due to lag times in some of the reporting or updating, even the information from HHS is sometimes conflicting. Again, the fluidity of the situation, the fact that there are many entities involved—and many, many unknowns and nuances—make these numbers very difficult to pin down definitively, and also difficult, even when known, to report timely. In summary, below we have compiled the “frequently asked questions” we have heard from campus relating to this matter. These same questions and answers will be posted on our COVID-19 site.

Please be patient with us as we create better reporting procedures to give you the information you need, and that is premised upon improved reporting procedures from Gunnison Valley Health and Gunnison County Health and Human Services, who are overwhelmed at the moment. Let’s demonstrate a unified front in addressing this global pandemic and seeing Western thrive.


President Salsbury

Dear Western Community,

We are experiencing a rapidly evolving situation regarding COVID-19 on our campus. As we have already announced, we have seen an uptick in the number of positive cases over the last week. Now, due to a number of positive cases which were reported just today, Sunday, November 8, 2020, we have made the decision to move entirely to online learning beginning with classes scheduled for tomorrow, Monday, November 9, 2020 and continuing for the rest of the Fall 2020 semester.

I am sure you will have many questions, especially regarding on-campus residents and how they will transition home for break. We cannot answer those questions until administrators meet with Gunnison County health officials tomorrow (Monday, Nov. 9, 2020). Following that meeting we hope to have guidance regarding whether residents should begin traveling home, what instructions they will be given, who is allowed to stay, and other important guidance. Please know we will update you with more information tomorrow in the timeliest manner possible following that meeting.

Until we know more, we are “business as usual” on campus with the exception of classes moving to the online format. Swipe access to academic buildings will be suspended for students. Meals will be served on a grab and go basis. Still, this could change in the next 24 hours based on direction from Public Health.

Once again, there are still some unknowns at this point. However, we are endeavoring to give you the up-to-the-moment information we have, so you can begin to make plans. We will update you again when we know more.

Thank you for helping us make a smooth transition during the next two weeks as we work together to contain the spread of COVID-19. Your efforts are key as we work to fulfill our promise of promoting intellectual maturity and growth of our students, while preparing them for a lifetime of contributions to their communities.


President Salsbury

Dear Western Community Member,

With conditions surrounding new cases of COVID-19 rapidly changing, the time for “suggestions” and “guidance” is over. We have a lot of information packed into this week’s Western Strong. I encourage you to read it in its entirety. Additionally, we will have more information for you regarding the pandemic’s impact on Western and possible changes which will be implemented to curve virus spread.

This week, we have seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases on Western’s campus. In fact, a significant amount of new cases in Gunnison County are from Western. Contact tracing has revealed that transmission likely occurred through two means: travel outside of Gunnison, or personal gatherings other than Western-approved events. Although more testing leads to finding more positive cases, which drives our positive case count up, we must give this our full attention now.

We must be responsible enough to do the simplest of actions: wear a mask, wash our hands and wave across social distances. Despite our best efforts, the time has come to double-down on what we know is required to finish the semester.

Travel: Earlier this week, you received an email which asked you not to travel out of Gunnison County until Thanksgiving break. We have only two more weekends until break—please do not travel.

If you look at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website, a map of outbreaks in the state clearly shows that places such as Boulder, Ft. Collins, Denver, Colorado Springs and other areas are most impacted. By traveling to high risk areas, you increase the likelihood of contracting the illness and bringing it back to campus. Additionally, we want you to be healthy when you return home to family and friends for break.

Social gatherings: With COVID-19 related hospitalizations rising statewide, yesterday, Nov. 5, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis asked all Coloradans to self-impose new restrictions. From the governor’s office:

  • Interact with only those in your household – This means all Coloradans need to do their best to avoid any social interactions with friends and family outside of their homes throughout the month of November.
  • Keep your distance – Just because an individual is wearing a mask doesn’t mean they aren’t at risk if they are interacting with others in close proximity. Coloradans have to do a better job of staying six or more feet away from others.
  • Wear a Mask – The numbers are clear. If an individual wears a mask, they have a much lower risk of getting or transmitting the virus.

Gunnison and other Colorado counties have begun implementing tighter restrictions once again. You can view what’s going on throughout the state here.

Last weekend, at least two large gatherings were held which led to more cases of illness. Follow the new direction given by the governor and Western’s protocols, and cease to gather in large groups. If you see a violation to the student code, you can report it anonymously here. As the governor stated Thursday, “This is an intervention.”

Flu vaccination clinic: The date is set! Next Tuesday, Nov. 10, from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom. The clinic is available to students, faculty and staff. Bring your insurance and ID cards, and have your vaccination form filled out ahead of time. Flu shots are free to all students!

Disinfecting: If you’re wondering how we are stopping COVID-19 transmission within our facilities, custodian crews are on the front lines of both prevention and mitigation. For example, did you know bathrooms and common areas are disinfected twice a day? That involves the use of an electrostatic misting gun which uses environmentally safe disinfectant. When a room is misted, it takes 60 seconds for the virus to be killed, and then surfaces are wiped down.

When someone has tested positive for COVID-19, cleaning crews are dispatched to impacted locations to perform a disinfection and wipe down process in classrooms or other areas where that individual may have been. Our cleaning crews are mighty in keeping us safe and clean!

Spring registration: Despite COVID-19 mitigation we are looking ahead with the understanding that we are getting on top of the situation now so we can have a fruitful spring semester. Now is the time to finalize your spring schedule. Go to MyWestern under Student – Registration. Remember, you can get to MyWestern by logging into the Western Go app which you can download here. Classes are filled on a first come, first served basis.

Fight the “COVID-19 fatigue” that you may be experiencing, and resist the temptation to let your guard down. We have just over two weeks to go before Thanksgiving break. Give it all you’ve got to remain Western Strong!


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

New COVID-19 cases have been reported over the last ten days—but we want to assure you that those recent positive members of our campus community have been quarantined a minimum of seven to 10 days, thus limiting exposure. Both Western and Public Health officials are working in unison to conduct contract tracing, a detailed process of determining who has been exposed within a specific time period. If you have not been notified, you are at low risk for exposure and at this moment do not need to take additional steps such as self isolation. But do continue the THREE Ws—wear your mask, wash your hands and wave across at least a six-foot distance. Additionally, containment measures are underway and Public Health is leading the way in making sure we are not at risk of further transmission.

We share that we are changing when we report case numbers. Each week on Wednesday, we have updated these figures on both Western’s website, and on Collaborate. This week we are moving the reporting date to Friday. Because of this, numbers may appear higher for the week as they come from a 10-day reporting period rather than a week.

Get the app! The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has launched a new phone app which can tell you if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. CO Exposure Notifications is a free and voluntary service. It will automatically be installed on iPhones—users will have the option of activating it. Android users must download the app through Google Play.

According to CDPHE’s website, by opting in, your Android or iPhone device will share anonymous tokens with other CO Exposure Notifications users using your phone’s Bluetooth. If another user you’ve been near tests positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period, the service will notify you. If you test positive, you can easily and anonymously notify others to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Tokens contain no personal information or location data and everything is completely anonymous. For those concerned about privacy issues, CDPHE says:

  • You have full control to opt in to receive exposure notifications and can turn it off at any time.
  • The service will never track your location—it uses Bluetooth rather than GPS.
  • Your identity will never be revealed to anyone.
  • The service will never collect, transmit or store any of your personal information.

Halloween: Are you ready for a spook-tacular Halloween weekend? A reminder, we are out to finish the semester Western Strong, and that means making good choices this weekend. Low risk Halloween activities include scavenger hunts, pumpkin patches, and a Zoom Murder Mystery and Ghost Tour. On campus, an “Improv” will be held in Taylor Hall at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31. Don’t forget your mask and to socially distance.

Looking ahead: Spring registration is still underway. Get your classes lined up! Go to MyWestern under Student – Registration. Remember, you can get to MyWestern by logging into the Western Go app which you can download here. Classes are filled on a first come, first served basis.

And speaking of change, don’t forget to “Fall Back” this weekend. Daylight savings time ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1. Enjoy the extra one hour of sleep!

Stick to the plan: During the semester, students have been able to engage in a number of events because they have adhered to guidance surrounding COVID-19. Western’s cross-country teams competed in the RMAC championships last week—the women’s team finished first and the men’s second.

Western’s Music Department welcomed both Gunnison and Western community members to a Faculty Artist Recital in the Kincaid Concert Hall in Quigley Hall. And one of the biggest names in free skiing, Cody Townsend, spoke on Western’s campus as part of the Blister series.

Participating in events such as these sure beats isolation and quarantine! We must continue to follow the standards aimed at preventing COVID-19 transmission. Those who do not are subject to the Student Conduct process, and consequences range from performing community service to possible expulsion. But these sanctions are simple to avoid—simply stick to the plan!

Let’s continue to hold fast to the guidance which has helped get us this far with the semester—the finish line is only weeks away. The goal is to make it to Thanksgiving break, and celebrate with our loved ones while remaining Western Strong!


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

At the beginning of this semester, the requirements of the Western community to address the global pandemic were made very clear. We asked all members to commit to a Statement of Personal Responsibility, which calls for being accountable for individual health, safeguarding others, and being alert to situations which threaten campus health. We have backed this contract with consequences outlined in our COVID-19 Protocols and Expectations for students.

Violations to these protocols are subject to the Conduct Process, no exceptions. Students who do not adhere to COVID-19 protocols are subject to possible sanctions, ranging from community service up to suspension and expulsion, depending on the severity of the violation.

Nothing has changed, and in light of a new positive COVID-19 case, it is now even more critical that we follow this guidance. It is imperative that COVID-19 protocols are followed including wearing a mask, washing hands frequently, and waving across a six-foot social distance. We must continue to screen and report our health through Safe2Return. VIOLATIONS TO THESE AND OTHER PROTOCOLS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

Below we have included the table of violations and the possible penalties. Please review this. Check—and if necessary, change—your own practices so you are in compliance. We have only four weeks to go before the end of in-person classes. We want to finish our course and come back for the spring semester Western Strong.

Think Spring: Spring registration is ongoing, and it is important that you continue to focus on your path leading to a successful outcome. Do not be distracted from the goal. Register now! Go to MyWestern under Student – Registration. Remember, you can get to MyWestern by logging into the Western Go app which you can download for Android | for iOS.

Assistance is available: For those impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, an infusion of private scholarship support has been made available. The Student First Scholarship Fund was established by the university with initial support from two Western alumni—Michael O. Johnson and Steven Borick. Borick and Johnson, realizing many students were at risk for having their education plans derailed, challenged Western alumni and friends to give to Student First Scholarship Fund for the 2020-21 academic year. If you are in need of financial assistance, please contact the Office of Student Financial Services TODAY by emailing, or calling 970-943-3085.

We are committed to your success, whether it is in helping you access the means to continue your studies, or protecting the health of the Western community. Keep focusing on the outcomes you want to achieve, and follow the steps which will get you there. Those steps include asking for help when needed, following the plan set in motion to maintain campus safety and making a personal commitment to remain Western Strong!


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

The scenarios listed below are examples and are not all-encompassing of the possible situations that may lead to conduct action.

Violation Level Examples Adjudication Options
One First violation of not wearing a mask and/or physical distancing when navigating campus buildings and public areas
Written warning
Conduct meeting
Second violation of not wearing a mask and/or physical distancing when navigating campus buildings and public areas
First violation of intentionally disregarding campus protocols and guidance
First violation of intentionally disregarding requests from University officials to follow proper campus protocols and guidance
Administrative Process – All sanctions except suspension, expulsion
Third time violating the mask-wearing, physical distancing requirements when navigating campus buildings and public areas
Second violation for intentionally disregarding requests from University officials to follow proper campus protocols and guidance
Second violation of intentionally disregarding mask-wearing, physical distancing requirements
First violation of not wearing a mask and/or physical distancing after having tested positive and/or displaying symptoms of COVID-19
First violation of hosting or participating in large gatherings where mask-wearing and physical distancing is not maintained
First violation of intentionally putting vulnerable students, faculty and staff at greater risk by disregarding proper campus protocols and guidance
Administrative Process – All sanctions including suspension, expulsion

Dear Western Community Member,

For the first time in almost two months, Western Colorado University is reporting a positive case of COVID-19.
A positive test result came back on a student—a member of the Wrestling team—who has been in quarantine since they first reported symptoms last Thursday, Oct. 15.

Gunnison County and university health officials are performing contact tracing, which includes fellow athletes, faculty and classmates. Those who may have been in close contact with the student have been or are in the process of being notified. Where there is concern, students have been asked to quarantine and undergo testing. Screening of asymptomatic team members is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 21. Further, proper cleaning protocols have been followed, and will continue in this case.

No other positive cases have been confirmed as of today, and this is not considered an outbreak as only one case has been confirmed. An outbreak is two or more positive cases.

Preparation is key: The university has been prepared for the eventuality of a new positive case, and acted early to contain any possible transmission. While we have enjoyed an extensive period of time free of the virus, we have been prepared in the event that we would again have a case. In partnership with Gunnison County Health and Human Services and Gunnison Valley Health, we’ve put our plans into action to handle the virus and prevent further transmission, protecting our campus and community.

Since Aug. 1, Western has had only seven positive cases of COVID-19—six students and one employee. Overall, 193 people have been tested for the virus with 186 returning negative results. We will of course update you as we have more information.

COVID-19 case Numbers Since Aug. 1
Faculty Students Total
Positives 1 6 7
Negatives 24 162 186
Total 25 168 193

How you can help: We’ve enjoyed a lot of success these past seven weeks preventing the transmission of COVID-19. Students, keep doing what you know to do by wearing your mask, washing your hands and waving across a social distance. Continue cleaning protocols at home, and being diligent when you travel. Parents, encourage your students to focus on completing the semester strong—the finish line for this semester is only a month away. And please know we have the best practices in place to maintain confidence in an uncertain time. Together we can remain Western Strong.

Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

The booming voice of Western Professor Dr. Duane Vandenbusche—who also serves at Colorado’s State Historian—could be heard this week across the campus lawn east of Taylor Hall. During his outdoor history class, he was teaching about the Teddy Roosevelt years, and the impact of that administration on the country. Students were listening attentively.
The scene demonstrated our ability to continue to hold many classes outside, providing an abundance of fresh air and healthy conditions, while students advance their education. This week we have information regarding changes, and planning for next semester.

We’re looking ahead! Spring registration begins next week. Students, you should have met with your academic advisor, or plan to do so soon. At that time, you’ll receive your registration code required to register for spring classes. Classes fill quickly so don’t delay. Registration opens MONDAY, OCT. 19, and are filled on a first come, first served basis prioritizing students by the number of credits completed. Go to MyWestern under Student – Registration. Remember, you can get to MyWestern by logging into the Western Go app which you can downloadhere. And parents, you can help by encouraging your students to register!

Moving indoors: As temperatures begin to drop, instruction will begin to move inside. We are taking steps to improve indoor air quality, including filtration and ventilation, to reduce the potential for COVID-19 transmission indoors.

In many of our buildings, filtration is a two-step process, and air is not funneled from room to room, but rather must first be processed. Facilities changed all the filters in buildings in early April. Filters are being replaced once again this fall. Western has invested in the highest quality filters which are able to be installed in each building’s system. In the event more than one case of COVID-19 occurs in any building, filters will be changed once again.

While we cannot provide 100% air exchange with the outdoors and still maintain comfortable temperatures, ventilation will be increased this winter than what is typical. We want fresh, clean, air flowing through our buildings! That means in many locations, temperatures will be cooler than your typical 70 degrees. Classroom and office temperatures could decrease to 65 degrees, requiring warmer clothing. While this may not be ideal, the circulation with fresh, outside air will go a long way in maintaining a safe environment and decrease the potential of virus transmission.

Ballots are in the mail: If you’re registered in the State of Colorado, you should be receiving your ballot soon. Ballots were mailed last Friday. You don’t have to wait to vote, and a drop box is conveniently located at the southwest entrance of the University Center. You can check your voter registration and track you ballot here. Out of state voters, check with your home’s Secretary of State office for ballot and other specific voter information. Additionally, for all voters, the national League of Women Voter’s website has helpful information. Under the help menu, you can find a tab specific to Colorado, or any other state where you may be voting.

Remaining strong: Western still reports no new cases of COVID-19 since Aug. 25.Way to go Western! Overall, 192 people have been tested since Aug. 1 with only six positives — one employee and five students. That means 186 employees and students have tested negative for novel coronavirus. Countywide, new case numbers also remain low, and businesses this month are allowed to increase capacity by 5% under Protect Our Neighbors state designation.

We’re proud of the campus wide effort to prevent the transmission of illness. Keepwearing your mask, washing your hands and waving across a social distance. Remember to log into Safe2Return, and don’t forget, an on-campus flu vaccination is being planned for some time in late October or early November. Thank you for everything you are doing to remain Western Strong!

With kind regards,

Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

As we continue our trend of no new COVID-19 cases on campus since Aug. 25, we want to make you aware of a shift in how we report results. Western has been proactive in protecting athletes participating in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) competitions by performing coronavirus testing prior to meets. No positive cases have been found among the athletes, but those negative results have gone unreported. We will now include those negative screening results in our total negative test cases, so this week you may notice a sudden “bump” in negative numbers. Of course, positive cases remain the same—six (6) total, with five (5) among students and one (1) staff member.

Thank you for your consistent diligence that is making Western successful. Keep wearing your mask, washing your hands and waving across the social distance. And don’t forget your daily log in to Safe2Return.
Flu clinic: The on-campus flu vaccination clinic is expected to occur the last week of October or the first week of November. Until we finalize a date, please know that there are other resources in the Gunnison community which provide flu shots.

Information for City Market can be found here. You can also schedule a flu vaccination at the Gunnison Walmart. More information is located here.

Remember, getting a flu shot not only protects you from severe effects from the flu, but also protects vulnerable populations by preventing transmission. Both help our local health care system function at its optimum while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cold front is coming: While trees still reflect the golden glow of Autumn and temperatures are warm, winter conditions are just around the corner. The National Weather Service is predicting a chance of rain turning to snow Sunday night with cooler temperatures next week. Remember to take care of yourselves! As we move indoors, it will be even more critical to maintain health protocols. Together we will finish the semester in just about six weeks, Western Strong!

Looking ahead: Of course, after a nice long break, the spring semester will be here sooner than we think. Here is some information so you can begin to plan. For new students, move-in will be on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, and returning students will be on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. Meal plans start on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, at 10 a.m. Classes begin Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. More information regarding the spring schedule can be found on our website. We will be sending out more information about any health protocols needing to be performed as we get closer to our start date.

It has been encouraging to walk around campus these past weeks, observing classes meeting outside in circles where fresh air is abundant and social distancing is easily obtained. We’ve learned a lot since classes began seven weeks ago, and although we’ll be moving inside soon, we have developed muscle memory in performing healthy practices.

Western, be proud of all that has been achieved so far, and build upon the strength that’s been developed. Keep doing what you know to do and set a goal of carrying that wisdom into the second half of the school year, Western Strong!

With kind regards,

Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,
Happy Homecoming weekend to you!

While we continue our trend of no additional positive test cases of COVID-19 on campus, we must be realistic. As the semester progresses, it is expected that positive cases may be reported. This should not be a reason for panic. Rather, have confidence in the hours of work that have been invested in Western’s planning, preparation, and your continued commitment to remaining Western Strong.

Should there be any positive cases, those students will be assisted in quarantining through their recovery. Additionally, our protocols will ensure those who may have been in contact with any positive cases are immediately notified and will be advised on next steps to help keep our campus community safe. Let’s not let our guards down. We know what to do—wear masks, wash hands frequently and wave across a social distance. And, don’t forget to log into Safe2Return on a daily basis.

Flu vaccinations—no need to wait: Final details are being considered regarding the flu vaccination clinic to be held on-campus toward the end of this month. Students can get their vaccinations for free now, there is no need to wait! Gunnison County Health and Human Services is hosting two community flu vaccination clinics:

  • Gunnison: Tuesday, Oct. 6, from 2-6 p.m. Gunnison County Fairgrounds, 275 S. Spruce St., Gunnison. Drive through only.
  • Crested Butte: Wednesday, Oct. 7, from 2-6 p.m. Crested Butte Community School, 818 Red Lady Ave., Crested Butte. Drive through only.

Please bring your insurance card as your insurance will be billed. For those who are uninsured, a payment of $25 will be collected at time of service. Students can get the flu shot for free. Bringing completed forms will help speed things up and can be found on the Gunnison County website

Additionally, flu shots are available in other locations. Information for City Market can be found here. Complete the requested information to schedule your appointment there. You can also schedule a flu vaccination at the Gunnison Walmart. More information is located here.

Don’t let COVID-19 interrupt your aid! The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for 2021-22 opened Oct. 1. With the uncertainty of the year, act now to secure your financial aid for next year by submitting your FAFSA TODAY. Western’s priority date for this is March 1. While it sounds far away, once you submit it you can take it off your mind and not miss out on aid.

Complete your application through or by using the “myStudentAid” app on your phone or tablet. If you need help, Western’s financial aid team is ready to assist you in Taylor 314, call at 970.943.3085 or email us.

Family weekend: Western has held a rich tradition of hosting a Family Weekend each year. The weekend has been filled with activities in which students and family members can participate, giving all the wonderful opportunity to fully experience Western. Like many things, COVID-19 has impacted that tradition and Family Weekend this year will not be held.

A reminder: In Colorado, ballots will be mailed beginning Oct. 9. You don’t have to wait until Election Day! Fill out your ballot and drop it in one of several drop boxes in the Gunnison Valley—one is located on the south side of the University Center. Those voting outside the State of Colorado check with your home Secretary of State office.

As we celebrate a modified version of Homecoming weekend, realize that we are reaching the halfway point in this fall semester. We are truly proud of how this community has come together to combat COVID-19. Continue to keep your eyes on the prize of crossing the finish line at semester’s end, and returning for second semester fearless, full engaged, and Western Strong.

With kind regards,

Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,
Strength is borne out of good partnerships, and we are seeing the fruits of our collaboration with Gunnison County Health and Human Services. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the latest statisticsare showing a lot of “zeros.”

  • There have been zero positive tests in Gunnison County since Sept. 1—and none on campus since Aug. 25.
  • The two-week testing positivity rate, a measure of transmission, also is zero.
  • Zero conditions have been met which would require more stringent health restrictions.

Gunnison County Health and Human Services Director Joni Reynolds earlier this week had high praise for Western. She said that we can all be proud of Western students who are continuing to partner with the community to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Way to go, Western!

Giving back: So, what does one do with strength? Serve. As part of our partnership with the community, we can take advantage of the time that is not spent on quarantine and case count control and give back to the community which supports us. Two prime opportunities are forthcoming.

First, Western’s Fall Day of Service will be held Oct. 3 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Western students may join those from Gunnison High School to perform volunteer projects throughout the community. Pre-registration is required. Please reach out to LEAD Special Programs Coordinator Cait Clough for more information.

Second, Gunnison County is looking for volunteers who can help with the COVID-19 call center. Volunteers are asked to fulfill a four-hour shift, answering calls and providing information for community members. Volunteers help callers determine if they need COVID-19 testing, or may answer their other questions. The shifts are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-noon, or 1-4 p.m. To volunteer, you must fill out a form found here.

Taking care of the whole self: With the pandemic, we realize there is an even greater need to balance physical and mental health. Western is offering crisis intervention and suicide prevention trainings for students, faculty and staff.

Reminders: This is the year to get your flu shot! Public Health officials are encouraging everyone to get a flu shot especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The flu shot helps prevent hospitalization, further taxing our health care system, and it helps protect transmission of the flu to vulnerable populations. Western is planning the details of an on-campus flu clinic to be held mid- to late-October. Vaccinations will be free of charge to students. More details to come soon.

Also, please remember there will be a power outage on campus tomorrow (Sept 26) beginning at 7:30 a.m. for six to eight hours. The good news is a special Al Fresco “Power to the People Brunch” has been planned from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on the University Center south patio.

Again, Western, keep up the great work. Take advantage of the strength that has been built over these first six weeks of the semester—one in which we still maintain our diligence in wearing a mask, washing hands frequently and waving across a social distance, and daily logging into Safe2Return. Thank you for continuing to do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 with the end result of remaining Western Strong.

With kind regards,

Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,
This week, the State of Colorado granted Gunnison County the special health status of “Protect Our Neighbors” due to declining numbers of COVID-19 cases. This allows certain health restrictions to be loosened as long as coronavirus case count remains steady. In other words, maintaining low case count means more freedom.

There are still no new coronavirus cases on campus this month. The last positive case was reported on Aug. 25 — more than three weeks ago. Congratulations to all of you for staying Western Strong!

While we are encouraged by the low numbers, we need to remain diligent in continuing the practices that have led to this success: wear your mask, wash your hands frequently and wave across a six-foot distance. Additionally, continue to fill out the Safe2Return app. Next week, we are adding a new feature to Safe2Return which will help you remember to log in. A reminder will be sent to you early afternoon if you have not logged in. We all get busy, and this reminder is to help you daily answer the questions which screen for COVID-19.

Flu clinic: As we enter what is traditionally known as “flu season,” local health officials are encouraging that everyone from age six months and older receive a flu vaccination. There are several reasons for this:

  • The flu shot may not stop you from getting the flu, but can prevent you from getting the more severe symptoms that cause hospitalizations and death.
  • A key condition of maintaining current health standards is the sustainability of the health care system.
  • Getting the flu shot helps to protect our vulnerable populations against the flu by preventing its spread.

The good news for students — an on-campus flu clinic is being scheduled for mid-October, and vaccines will be provided to students free of charge. More details about this clinic will be forthcoming.

Power outage: A campus-wide power outage is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26, for approximately six hours. Those hours have not yet been determined. Crews are performing routine maintenance which will improve the redundancy of the power supply to Western. Students with disabilities, or those with health care needs requiring refrigeration, should contact Disabilities Services Coordinator Cheyenne Terry, M.S., at for accommodations. IT and Residence Life will send out information via email regarding other aspects of the outage.

With power down, there will be no ventilation to buildings; therefore, the Mountaineer Field House will be closed on Sept. 26. Additionally, a special Al Fresco “Power to the People Brunch” has been planned from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Continental breakfast, salads, quiche and sandwiches will be served on the University Center south patio since hot meal service cannot be provided. Please look for more information in your email inbox and next week’s Western Strong message.

Again, congratulations on your efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 here at Western. Your efforts do not go unnoticed. Ultimately, you are contributing to the success of Western and the community at large, and to your continued pursuit of knowledge.


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

In one week, the Western campus has gone from smokey sunsets due to Colorado wildfires, to an epic winter storm on Sept 8. Despite the loss of trees, outdoor classrooms are intact, instruction is continuing and we remain Western Strong!
Case count: We are happy to report that there have been no new cases of COVID-19 reported on campus in the last two weeks. Again, on Wednesdays we update our case count on our Western Strong: Ensuring Campus Safety page.

Clearly, students, faculty and staff are adhering to the three Ws of Western: wear a mask, wash hands frequently and wave across a six-foot span. Throughout the Western campus — from the fitness center at the Mountaineer Field House to the hallways of Taylor Hall — it is very visible we are all adhering to health protocols, helping to keep the spread of novel coronavirus at bay. Per the Gunnison County “coronameter”, we remain in the blue level, which is the second-least restrictive phase of regulations. Currently, only one condition has exceeded standards, yet, the health care system is fully able to care for those who need medical attention due to COVID-19. Therefore, health protocols remain steady.

One area where we want to encourage you to build as a habit is in reporting through the Safe2Return app. A gradual decline in reporting has been noted since the beginning of the semester. We understand that a long holiday weekend may have contributed to a lack of participation — it may be the last thing on everyone’s mind after the Labor Day break. And, as we enter the fifth week of the semester, it’s easy to take such a daily step for granted. But by utilizing all the resources to monitor COVID-19, we can better prevent its transmission. Please help us by making this a daily practice.

Mental Health: As we adapt and overcome during this global pandemic, long-term stress is to be expected. Western is endeavoring to provide a menu of resources to assist in bolstering the mental health of students, faculty and staff.

For example, next week’s Wellness Wednesday (Sept. 16 @ 5:30 p.m.) will focus on the psychological toll of COVID-19 and the effects of chronic stress on the body and mind. The Zoom meeting will look at how to cope with the feelings that come from responding to the crisis. The Zoom meeting ID is 981 4248 1124; the password is 510996.

Crisis intervention trainings also are being held for students, faculty and staff who want to provide assistance to those who are struggling. As the semester continues to unfold, look for more programs and resources promoting the social and emotional well-being among the members of the Western community.
As a reminder, the journey to maintaining educational excellence during these times is not a sprint — it’s a marathon. We want to provide all the tools necessary to promote both physical and mental health, making sure you can run the race Western Strong.

Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

On Wednesday, Western President Greg Salsbury addressed questions regarding COVID-19 cases and reporting protocols, and we are happy to say there have been no new cases in the last nine (9) days. We want to make sure you have this information, and that you know we will keep you updated on any related changes on campus.

For your reference, the total number of positive cases since August 1, and for the last seven days can be found on the Western Strong: Ensuring Campus Safetyweb page. Currently, only six (6) cases have been reported since the start of the semester — one (1) among staff and five (5) who are students. Dean of Students Gary Pierson is in contact with those students making sure their needs are met and is tracking their progress.

Maintaining the message: Parents, we want to thank you for your help, and ask that you keep enforcing the positive message with your students to remain Western Strong. Around the nation we see examples of institutions of higher education having to renew actions to clamp down on COVID-19. Schools are moving once again to online classes, and in some cases requiring large numbers of students to quarantine. We believe the best way to impart an education is through in-person learning, and we are committed to following the proper public health procedures which are intended to prevent virus transmission, allowing us to remain in the classrooms.

Labor Day Challenge: Students, we would like you to put thought into your plans for Labor Day weekend. Following the Fourth of July holiday, the Gunnison Valley community saw a rise in the number of novel coronavirus cases, which could have led to tighter health restrictions. Due to the response from the community, those numbers are on the decline once again.
Given what we know about virus transmission, should you decide to leave campus we encourage you to continue the three Ws of Western: wear a mask, wash your hands frequently and wave to others as you span at least six feet of distance. Resist the short-term temptation to relax your standards of vigilance. The long-term benefit we hope will be an uninterrupted semester of learning. Consider this the Labor Day Challenge.
Cooperation is key: As we complete the third week of classes at Western, we have a lot for which to be thankful. A great partnership has formed between our institution and local government. Through cooperation between Gunnison County Health and Human Services and Western, we have established sound practices and protocols which aid in limiting community spread. But we cannot sit on our laurels. To stay in our courses, we have to “stay the course.”
Additionally, President Salsbury reminded us on Wednesday there is a great deal of fluidity to many dimensions of the pandemic. At any moment information can change slightly or significantly between the time data is collected and reported. More cases are to be expected, but we want to assure you that we will respond rapidly and appropriately to any of those changes, and keep you informed with the latest information.
Again, thank you for what you are doing to fulfill your personal responsibility and by filling out the Safe2Return survey. Together we will be successful in remaining Western Strong.


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Students, Faculty and Staff:

At our recent Convocation some of you had questions about COVID-19 cases on campus and how they are being reported. I wanted to follow up on that more fully. To keep you informed regarding the number of cases and possible contact with those who have become ill, Western will be reporting statistics in two ways.

Firstly, the cumulative total of positive cases since August 1, and the total from the last seven (7) days will be shown on our public web page Western Strong: Ensuring Campus Safety. The case count will be updated weekly on Wednesdays.

Then, in a similar manner, case numbers will be posted on Western’s Collaborate landing page under “COVID-19 Information”. Unique to this site will be the number of negative cases reported, and statistics will be separated into two categories — students and employees.

Since August 1, we have six (6) total positive cases, and 30 negative results for both students and employees. One (1) positive case is a staff member, with the remaining five (5) cases among students. Negative test results break down to 12 for employees and 18 for students. In the last week, we have had no additional positive results.

Case numbers reflect only those in the local area — no remote learners or remote employees — and they are simply those which have been reported to Western. For more comprehensive numbers from the community as a whole, please refer to Gunnison County’s COVID-19 data page.

Here are steps and considerations following a student or employee testing positive for COVID-19:

  • If we learn that you have come into significant contact with a student or employee who has tested positive you will receive an email or call from either Gary Pierson, Dean of Students, or Kim Gailey, Director, Human Resources.
  • When we learn of a student or employee who may have reason to self-isolate, we notify relevant parties as soon as possible. If we have specific information indicating it may be necessary for faculty or other students who have been in contact with this student to quarantine, we notify those impacted as soon as possible.
  • Western is committed to maintaining the privacy of those impacted by COVID-19 — as with any other illness. Because of this, we will not be reporting publicly about all dimensions of potential quarantining/isolation for any given individual.
  • Lastly, please understand that there is a great deal of fluidity to many dimensions of the pandemic and any given information we provide may change slightly or significantly between the time data are collected and reported.

Additionally, please know if there is ever a public health emergency, we will take the appropriate steps as advised by Gunnison County Health and Human Services.

As a reminder, information on how to report a COVID-19 can be found on our COVID-19 resources page under “Your Questions — Answered.”

We encourage you to continue to monitor your own health through the Safe-2-Return screening app. By remaining Western Strong, we are ensuring our ability mitigate and minimize virus spread to best serve the campus and the community as a whole.

With kind regards,

Greg Salsbury

Dear Western Community Member,

The skies have been plenty blue and the air is clear. A new crispness to the morning has taken hold as the sun breaks over the Continental Divide. In these last few days of summer, it is clear that fall is just around the corner.

Western Colorado University is alive with activity – even during a global pandemic.

On the south lawn outside the University Center, music is playing and students are engaged in the Club and Activities Fair. Around campus, red tents have been assembled, providing outdoor classrooms, abundant with fresh air and plenty of space for people to distance. Passers-by can hear a low murmur from instructors distributing “beginning of the year” information.

While Western’s top priority continues to be prevention of the spread of COVID-19, your health, and safety, to better help you keep track the number of cases on our campus, our team will be updating numbers weekly on our Western Strong: Ensuring Campus Safety, COVID-19 Updates and Resources web page. The website will show the total number of positive cases since August 1, and the new cases recorded in the previous seven days – updating weekly each Wednesday. Find our campus tracker here.

Currently, five (5) cases have been reported among students since August 1, with two (2) of those in the last seven (7) days. Among staff, one (1) positive case has been confirmed since August 1. Thus, the campus total since August 1 are six (6) positive cases. As previously communicated, Western has a comprehensive process of screening the health of employees and students. Students feeling ill are provided assistance and direction from both Western and county health officials about self-isolation and virus screening. Should illness be reported among employees, Human Resources works with the employee while they remain at home to determine and address possible facility exposure and whether testing is required. These, among other steps, limit virus transmission.

Safe2Return Daily Symptom Survey: Reinforcing the Need: Please help us by performing your daily screening via the Safe2Return daily symptom survey at the start of your day.

Meanwhile, the community that surrounds us also is holding steady on its numbers. See the Gunnison County site for details.

Western has strict health protocols in place to prevent community spread, and individual action boils down to the three Ws at Western: wear, wash and wave. Students and staff wear masks, are asked to wash their hands frequently and may wave to others as they socially distance six or more feet.

While we have plans in place to ensure everyone follows the rules, we are trusting members of our campus to take personal responsibility in slowing the spread of COVID-19. This is how we remain Western Strong.


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

A successful and safe start to the semester has been what we’ve been working toward this summer, and this first week has been all we’ve hoped it would be. We see literature debated on Taylor Lawn, new Field House processes to expand hours and reopen the climbing wall and fitness classes, and University Center and res-hall student interactions that strike the perfect balance between safe and social.

While I still see progress for some students to make in modeling best-practice behaviors off-campus and in recreational activities, I could not be more thrilled to see us launch the 2020-21 schoolyear from a foundation of student safety and wellness.

From this foundation, I expect the “gotta know’s” and “gotta do’s” in these Friday memos will diminish in number, and we’ll redirect toward how Western supports the student experience–so that Western Strong extends beyond safety to encapsulate every facet of student success.

5 Tips for Academic and Learning Success: Those of you here last March may recall me sharing 5 Tips for Distance Learning Success. At that time, they were inspired by our sudden transition to online learning. Looking back at them now, they all hold true no matter the physical setting. Since the year ahead may include a mix of in-person, hybrid/hyflex, and all-online courses, let these tips be anchors for your preparedness and ability to be constant amidst change.

1) Show Up! I witness firsthand how much your professors put into learning and preparing themselves to be able to provide you with a rich and rigorous learning experience. Eighty percent of success is showing up: and I ask you to show up daily.
2) Be Present and Participate. Because I know you will “show up,” I ask you to be present and participate in your course via whatever learning modality. Participate!
3) Schedule and Budget Your Time. You will exponentially increase your probability of success if you create and stick to a schedule for attending class, studying, reading, preparing and homework. Be disciplined with your self-designed schedule, and budget your time wisely.
4) Find a Space for Studying and Learning. Whether you are on our beautiful Gunnison campus or completing the term from afar, find those quiet and distraction-free spaces that are conducive to, and allow us to, learn and study.
5) Don’t Be Shy in Pursuing Academic Support. I provide you with this list of resources to keep at your fingertips (please see attached). These resources are for YOU. Please take full advantage of them. My team is standing by and eager to assist.

Safe2Return Daily Symptom Survey: Reinforcing the Need: The Safe2Return daily symptom survey is now working great: and I expect all Western students (except those outside Gunnison in online-only programs) to take it daily. Some of you have been–thank you for your leadership! More of you haven’t been, and we’ll keep reiterating the need and, if noncompliance is habitual, enforcing this symptom-tracking as a key preventive component of Western’s Protocols and Expectations for Students.

This week, we’ve seen promising local trends on several key Coronameter indicators: county positive-test rates have declined (by over 50% this past month), and test-resolution turnaround times too have declined (also, by over 50% this past month). If we stay vigilant with personal responsibility and screening, we may continue to see risks reduced and be able to breathe easier. Considering the freshness of the Gunnison air is, that’s something to savor indeed.


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

It’s “Go Time” at Western—and how amazing it has been this week to see smiles and hear laughter again as New Student Orientation and Move-In activities proceed without a hitch. As you come to campus before Monday’s semester start, remember that “80% of success is showing up.”

Our beautiful Western campus is fresh and ready for you. “Fresh” is a good segue into this week’s Western Strong topic.

Dining at Western: Wednesday was Opening Day for Sodexo Foodservice, which operates Western’s two University Center dining venues and campus catering. Thursday, they efficiently served 425 lunches (many to-go) in their heavily revamped Rare Air Café dining center, and are well equipped to safely serve more people as returning students re-enter campus today.

Below, I detail some dining adaptations Sodexo has made to align with Western Strong campus safety and operations enhancements. Great news: Fall 2020 culinary options and convenience is undiminished, and seating options spread their wings across the University Center’s 2nd floor.
A few new things to note this year with campus dining include:
  • In the Rare Air Café: One-way directional flow, and main dining room capacity of 100 (was 375 last year). To make up for reduced dining room space, diners may take meals across the hall to the Ballroom (capacity at 50) or to-go (in a dedicated Rare Air Café pick-up line) outside the University Center.
  • Elimination of self-service/buffet, with condiments, drinks, desserts, and other meal-related items served at attended stations.
  • Extended Rare Air Café lunch hours (1:30-3 pm), to spread out meal traffic.
  • Disinfectant of tables after every customer use.
  • At Mad Jack’s Café: More and more diverse grab-and-go options
  • Daily symptom screening of all Sodexo staff and mandatory mask-wearing for customers Sodexo for customers (until fully seated at table) and Sodexo staff (except those cooking over open flames or hot equipment)
  • For dorm residents self-isolating or quarantining: Food delivery will occur at regular intervals for every meal 7 days a week, via golf cart with food warmers/coolers to enable consistent and safe food delivery.

Next week, Sodexo launches the Bite+ App, which customers will use to preorder meals for convenient pickup (or delivery, for those self-isolating). One first-week advisement from Sodexo: Please do not move *any* tables together, they are spaced to meet health recommendations, and for our own good!

Contact Jonathan Coady, general manager of Sodexo at Western, with any questions you have about dining at Western this Fall. Ask Chef Eric or any Sodexo staff you see for allergen-free, vegan, or gluten free options: they’re here to support them.

One final reminder: Yesterday, you heard from us about the Safe2Return screening mechanism, which all students are expected to complete daily (including today: take it now if you’ve not yet done so!). This expectation includes students, faculty, and staff who may be taking or teaching classes remotely: Our concern for keeping communities as COVID-free as possible—and for being aware daily of potential incidence, outbreaks, and ways we can serve your health and academic progress—extends well beyond Gunnison.

Thank you, and have an outstanding weekend.


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

Welcome back to Western! You’ll hear from us again tomorrow. Today, we have one key action to advise you on.

We introduce Safe2Return—a critical part of our Western Strong safety preparations for Fall 2020.

All students, faculty and staff are expected to complete this quick survey, every day (whether you visit campus or not) before leaving home. The survey is at Friday morning (8/14) is the first morning we will expect everyone to screen—whether you’re already on campus, or will be in the next few days or even hours.

You will use your normal Western username (same as MyWestern) on this platform. But you will need to set a new password for Safe2Return. Please take these steps.

  1. Visit
  2. Select the link “Initially set or recover password.”
  3. Enter your Western username and click Submit.
  4. A message with a link to create your Safe2Return password will be sent to your email. Follow that link to set the password.
  5. Then use that password with your Western username to log into Safe2Return.
Once you’ve set your password, log in to Safe2Return and take the 7-question survey.
  • If your responses suggest no COVID-19-related symptoms: You’ll promptly be green-lighted to continue your day, as normal.
  • If your responses suggest 1 or more symptoms: You’ll be directed to stay home and promptly call 970-641-7660, the Gunnison County COVID-19 Hotline. Then, a health professional will ask more questions to affirm symptoms, their relevance and severity, and travel and contact details.
Hotline staff will then decide if you should be:
  1. Referred for a COVID-19 test and asked to self-isolate
  2. Asked to stay home, but not referred for test (if symptoms are deemed not COVID-related)
  3. Cleared to resume normal activities
If you have symptoms later in the day: You can revisit the site and retake the survey to report them.
Please bookmark on your computer and favorite it on your smartphone. The app has been developed in partnership with Gunnison Valley Health, in close coordination with Gunnison County Health & Human Services.
I know this daily screening is a lot to ask. We are starting a schoolyear with so much to do and so much to remember. But by doing this, you help us minimize risk and keep our campus safer. As we start classes Monday, I thank you deeply for helping to keep Western Strong!


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

Now, for the first time in months, our Gunnison campus thrums with energy from every building as we step up to start classes in 10 days. In the last Western Strong message before most of you head our way, a few important updates:

Self-quarantine for traveling students begins: As we outlined July 24, we advise all students coming to Western from outside Gunnison County to self-quarantine for 7 days before leaving home. If you’re moving in next Friday August 14, the self-quarantine would begin today. We know it’s inconvenient, but this Gunnison County health recommendation will reduce risk as students re-enter the Western community. We all appreciate you for doing your part to keep Western Strong as the year begins.

How Gunnison assesses COVID-19 health conditions: Last week, Gunnison County public health leaders joined our Parent Orientation webinar that outlines our preparations for Fall. In it we hear directly from public health director Joni Reynolds, whom we meet with weekly to ensure Western and county health protocols are in sync. It reminds us to introduce the primary tool Gunnison County now uses to convey COVID-19 health conditions: the Coronameter.

The Coronameter system formally gauges local COVID-19 viral risk and resilience on a 5-point scale, from Green (No threat: no restrictions) to Red (Severe: Essential activities only, major restrictions). The 5 Coronameter stages each trigger a different set of recommendations and requirements for all activity in public and private spaces.

Today, Gunnison County’s Coronameter status is Blue (Cautious Normal), as it has been for the last few weeks. It assesses conditions based on 7 factors (viewable here; scroll to bottom). On 2 factors (recent positive cases, and positivity rate) we have adverse conditions. On 5 factors (health systems capacity, PPE supplies, and others) we are well situated.

The graphic at right illustrates some “dos” and “don’ts” while in Blue status. At Western, we track this measure closely, because we know changes in local health conditions could alter how we operate.

If the meter changes to Green (only likely when a vaccine or herd immunity is achieved), we resume normal operations without limits. If we move down the scale to Yellow, Orange, or Red, each shift brings new restrictions related to travel, group size, teaching modes and more. Western is prepared to adjust if Coronameter status shifts.

We take seriously the “cautious” in “cautious normal.” It’s why we introduced the Statement of Personal Responsibility and COVID-19 Campus Protocols and Expectations for Students, and have made major investments this summer not only to reduce and mitigate campus risk, but also to sustain Western’s authentic community experience amid uncertainty. We also are cautious in projecting the trajectory of this virus. It will not disappear tomorrow, so adaptations rely more on flexibility and behavior than on false expectations.

You’ll still be able to rent a kayak from Wilderness Pursuits, have vegan and gluten-free delicacies at the Rare Air Café, and take field trips to explore the region’s biological and geological wonders. Meanwhile, we’ll attentively track public health indicators and change course quickly if these indicators suggest the need.

Five things all students should do as you return to Gunnison:

1) On-campus residents: Make your move-in appointment, or double-check its timing: be sure you arrive on time, and review building-specific move-in info
2) Self-assess for symptoms all week: Please defer travel to Gunnison until you are asymptomatic; on-campus residents, be aware that you and your move-in companions will be temperature-checked before you can enter your assigned residence hall
3) Bring your own thermometer, several face-coverings (you’ll get one Western facemask upon arrival!), and cleaning supplies; many of these you can get in Gunnison, but thermometers locally are in short supply
4) If your campus move-in plans have changed, contact us ASAP at 970-943-2101
5) GET STOKED! These little memos are packed with daunting information about health and risk management. But make no mistake: We’re psyched for the year ahead. Yesterday, we helped move into residence halls students who arrived early for Wilderness Based Orientation, Today they’re on rafts, SUPs, and mountain bikes—”social distancing,” easy to do in a county that’s 80% public land with less than 5 residents per square mile. Seeing their enthusiasm and promise jolts us with energy as campus comes alive. It’s what Western faculty and staff wait all summer for. It’s what we’re here to stoke.
Next week, we’ll send you at least two Western Strong communications: our regular Friday memo, and earlier in the week new details on the Safe2Return App we’ll use daily for health screening.
I leave you this morning with this Western Strong video premiering this week in our New Student Orientation. In this student-produced video, student leaders have fun sharing crucial safety tips to guide the months ahead. The video reminds us that at Western, students take the lead—naturally. Get packing, and we’ll see you next week on the Western Way.


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

Tomorrow the calendar turns to August, buildings on our Gunnison campus begin reopening, and we will be within two weeks of the start of Orientation for our first-year students. We’ll continue to send you crucial Friday Western Strong health and operational updates in preparation for the school year ahead, and today’s updates are below.

COVID-19 Protocols and Expectations for Students: The Office of Student Affairs has developed a key document for all students to review before returning to campus. It outlines rules and principles guiding behavior in student life realms such as campus housing, dining, classrooms, visitation, athletics and more.

We expect adherence to these protocols will be universal, as we aim to build a positive culture of best practices rather than one of unpleasant enforcement. Due to the seriousness of COVID-19 and the potential for individual behavior to impact the entire community, Student Affairs also has developed a system to hold students accountable to these protocols. Students who violate them will be subject to the Western Student Conduct Process and may face sanctions up to and including suspension and expulsion. Thank you for your attention to these protocols and expectations in support of keeping Western safe, healthy and open.

Classroom and Curriculum Adaptations: Western’s Academic Affairs has teamed with faculty this summer to analyze many aspects of teaching, learning, health, tech and facilities. We’re very hopeful of maintaining in-classroom modes as long and frequently as advisable. We’re confident that if circumstances change, we’re far more equipped to teach compelling courses remotely than when we suddenly had to move online last March.

On this front, please be aware:

  • We are providing masks and shields (either face-fitting or standalone Plexiglas) to all faculty members for classroom use.
  • All faculty will have on-demand access to a camera and microphone; students who are symptomatic or advised to remain home (based on screening protocol outlined in our July 24 email) will be able to continue their classes from their residence in Gunnison.
  • All students will be expected to clean personal spaces in classrooms beforeand after each class, using cleaning supplies stocked in each academic building.
  • All classroom capacities and spacing have been calculated and reviewed by Gunnison County Health & Human Services to maximize distancing; in some spaces, floor signage will encourage specific directional flow.
  • All courses will have some online component, and all faculty will be prepared to move courses fully online as quickly as may be necessary.
  • Start/end times of classes will stagger to reduce hallway flow and volume during between-class intervals.
  • By Monday August 3, our Course Catalog will have updated modalities for several courses some faculty have opted to move online-only.

Though these updates may not address every potential question on how we are adapting curriculum and classroom spaces, feel free to reach out to your advisors or instructors with questions not addressed above or on our Your Questions—Answered webpage.

IT prep: As we plan for in-person classes with the above adaptations, it’s wise to be tech-ready for any potential shift to online and distance learning. To do so, we advise these four things before the schoolyear begins:

  • Bring (if possible) a modern laptop computer (Mac or Windows; notChromebook), with working webcam, on which you can install software and attend class online.
  • Sign up for an account at Zoom, the videoconference software Western primarily uses and has an institutional license for.
  • Become familiar with your Office 365 account, through which documents are easily saved to and shared in “the cloud”.
  • Log into Canvas, Western’s primary learning management software.

If you have technology difficulties or feel ill-equipped for online learning, contact the IT Helpdesk at 970.943.3333.

NCAA start delayed: The Rocky Mountain Athletics Conference’s Presidents Council voted Monday to push back the start of the fall 2020 season. Practices will start Aug. 24 and the start date for competition is set for Sept. 18. View this news release for more on this.

Next week, we’ll talk about how Gunnison County health leaders track COVID-19 preparedness and status as conditions evolve, and you may hear from our county public health director as well.


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

Soon, we’ll be back in Gunnison teaching and learning on topics from software engineering to wildlife biology to gallery management. We’ll be planning clubs and sports to join, lunching in the Rare Air Café, and planning weekend Hartman Rocks or river excursions.

This year’s Western will feature so many of the elements of the college life you see in our Viewbook (and on our new website)—but also some new policies and mindsets to ensure we stay safe and healthy together all year long, a few of which we introduce below.

Screening, Testing and Contract Tracing: We are setting robust expectations and protocols to diagnose and respond to COVID-19. We’ll communicate the finer details of some of these before classes begin, and we outline our plans below.

Screening: Western has contracted with Gunnison Valley Health (GVH) for screening and testing services, expanding Western’s years-long partnership with the flagship county health care provider. This arrangement includes direct leadership from GVH nurse and infection preventionist Jodie Leonard, RN, CIC, with further support from other GVH staff dedicated on Western’s behalf.

A (non-location-tracking) screening app, nearing launch in early August, will be mandatory for Western faculty, students and staff who will respond daily to survey questions on their symptoms or exposure. If their survey responses suggest risk, the individual will be referred to GVH for follow-up. If GVH’s follow-up suggests testing is needed, a test will be approved and administered.

Testing for COVID-19 will be conducted by GVH on or next to Western’s campus in a dedicated location, convenient yet well-spaced from high-traffic campus areas. While nationally, processing of COVID-19 tests has recently seen lags, the State of Colorado this week is adding resources likely to improve test-result intervals in the near term. Test results will be conveyed to the individual and to county public health, and a positive result affecting campus will trigger followups from campus and health personnel.

A strong contact tracing program, with quick and reliable notification and directives for those who may come into contact with the virus, is one more tool for reducing potential COVID-19 impact to Western and the greater Gunnison community. For this we have dedicated resources from Gunnison County Health & Human Services—led by community health nurse Ashley Akerlund, RN, BSN, our newly appointed liaison for virus reporting and contact tracing.

Here too, new technology is key to the equation. We’ll strongly advise all campus constituents to download Gunnison County’s contact tracing smartphone app when available in August. The app relays information on your proximity or contact with a COVID-19 affected individual. It does not reveal personal information or health detail; to safeguard your privacy, location data is not paired with your personally identifiable information.

While we cannot make this app mandatory, we strongly advise it, as universal adoption will improve campus and community response to health threats. We expect Akerlund to be assisted by a team of 10 Western student investigators and contract tracers whose efforts will likely be acknowledged with academic credit or stipends.

These technologies and procedures reflect best-in-class public health guidance on COVID-19, but they alone do not eliminate risk. Your own behaviors are critical to the prevention puzzle. We will continue to reinforce our Statement of Personal Responsibility (tab 1 on this page) before and as you settle onto campus.

Self-quarantine 7 days before arriving in Gunnison: Our campus best practices aim to align with Gunnison County Health & Human Services countywide recommendations. They recommend that individuals traveling to Gunnison from outside the County should self-quarantine for 7 days beforehand, monitor daily for COVID-19 symptoms during that period, and defer travel to Gunnison if you have symptoms in that period. Contact us with any questions or concerns you may have on self-quarantine matters.

In the next week or two, we hope to update you on NCAA Athletics fall status, COVID-19 related teaching and classroom adaptations, student conduct updates, and how we’re “virtualizing” certain student services. Have an outstanding weekend.


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Colleagues,

Most U.S. communities have some possibility of COVID-19 viral presence—whether as confirmed positive case, unconfirmed but symptomatic individuals, or latent and asymptomatic individuals.

Western does not intend to broadly publicize every confirmed positive case. However, select Western staff members must get relevant information quickly on positive or likely COVID-19 cases among Western students, faculty, and staff. This knowledge is a precursor for contact tracing and notification, quarantine logistics, and many other safety and operational follow-ups.

All students must self-report COVID-like symptoms (through the Self-Report form at and self-isolate, to guide appropriate follow-up. You, as Western faculty or staff member, may be first to learn of a confirmed or likely COVID-19 positive case among a student, colleague, or of your own.

Western faculty and staff: Please follow this process to report a positive (confirmed or symptomatic) case—immediately after you become aware of it.

  • If faculty or staff: Notify Kim Gailey, [970.943.3142/],
  • If student: Notify Gary Pierson, Dean of Students [970.943.2049/]
    • They will share case details of with appropriate stakeholders that include the below—DO NOT identify the individual in any communications with any other parties.

Kim or Gary then in turn share relevant details of the case (protecting the identity of the individual as required) with appropriate stakeholders likely to include:

    • Western’s COVID-19 Deputy (Nathan Kubes, 970-209-8798, and Task Force
    • Western President and Public Information Officer
    • Relevant Western functional leads
    • County health stakeholders: Health & Human Services, Gunnison Valley Health partners (for testing/contact tracing purposes)

From there, Western point people (noted above) in notification loops take actions appropriate to on specific scenarios—actions more fluid and granular than can be fully outlined here.

Western stakeholder and County follow-through includes (but is not limited to) priorities such as:

  • Service of health (physical and mental) for affected individual(s)
  • Contact tracing and notification of impacted or high-risk individuals
  • Cleaning
  • Facilities safety and access
  • Communication (public and internal as appropriate)
  • Self-isolation accommodation and return to work/class timing/logistics
  • Benefits notification and service (if faculty/staff)

Western responses prioritize the privacy of personal and health information (guided by HIPAA statute), while maximizing Western’s ability to mitigate and minimize community spread.

Thank you for your attention to our COVID case-reporting processes. We will update you on Western Strong health and operational preparations as we square our shoulders to the schoolyear ahead.

Sending you my warmest regards,

Dear Western Community Member,

With your Gunnison return less than a month away, we will continue to share important updates for you before classes begin August 17—more than we can pack into one email. Stay tuned Friday mornings for these emails on on-campus preparedness, check our Western Strong Operations Plan or Your Questions—Answered pages for other health and operations updates, and we’ll dive now into a few new updates:

  • May I finish my degree remotely, if I prefer?: We have received some inquiries from students nearing graduation who seek to finish their Western journey online, off-campus. We believe the Western experience is most successful when all students participate in the same mode: with in-person classes planned for fall, we intend for all students to join us on campus. However, it may be possible for some students to complete their Fall 2020 curriculum path online, with accommodations you would make on a professor-by-professor basis. If you wish to seek an online Fall 2020 course schedule, please directly contact each professor in your enrolled courses. If this does not enable a viable online-centric pathway, contact your advisor, who may be able to recommend other online-only courses. Check our Course Catalog after August 1, when more online offerings should become available. If you have medical imperative to study remotely, contact Cheyenne Terry at Disability Services.
  • Dorm Residents: Note today’s Move-In email from Res Life Director Shelley Jansen, as it contains specific instructions on packing, planning, and arrival procedures that all dorm residents are expected to follow. It will be followed Monday by a message from your dorm’s Residence Director with finer-grained details specific to your own residence hall.
  • Field House Open: July 15, the Mountaineer Field House reopened in limited capacity for individual fitness activities (no group classes) and basketball (groups of 10 or fewer, all players must arrive/depart together). Summer hours are 6-9 am, 11 am-1 pm (the 11am hour reserved for vulnerable populations) and 4-7 pm. We anticipate expanded hours of operation once classes resume.
  • Update on NCAA Fall Athletics: Yesterday, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) Presidents Council met to determine the status for Fall 2020 NCAA competition. The 7/16 meeting yielded no vote; the group will reassess next week after further anticipated NCAA guidance is available. (NCAA/RMAC rulings do not specifically bind non-NCAA Mountain Sports, but Fall mountain biking, climbing and trail running may have modified seasons and activities to clarify in coming weeks.)

Stay tuned next week for updates on self-quarantine, mask accommodations for vulnerable populations, COVID-19-related student conduct considerations, and more. I hope you and your family are having an exceptional summer so far.


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Dear Western Community Member,

Ordinarily, summer on our Gunnison campus is our quietest time of year. But this July, visitor energy and visitor enthusiasm is infusing Western more and more, day by day. Our Welcome Center, Mad Jack’s Café and Wilderness Pursuits have reopened, and campus tours have resumed. We’ve even hosted a socially distanced bandshell concert.

We are so far fortunate so to be less impacted by recent national COVID-19 trends (keep up with Gunnison County health updates here). Yet we are not complacent in preparation for the August 17 start of on-campus classes.

Some of our preparation occurs in daily meetings of faculty and staff on every corner of campus, as we develop area-specific COVID-19 tactical and mitigation plans to align with our high-level Western Strong Operations plan. But another major imperative for Western—and for you—is to represent and reinforce a culture of safety and mutual regard through actions we do, and do not, take in this new environment.

We have developed a Statement of Personal Responsibility that all Western students, faculty and staff will be expected to adhere to together. It reads:


To remain Western Strong, we must rise together to overcome new challenges. As we reopen campus for Fall, we all have critical responsibilities to ensure the health and welfare of our friends and neighbors. Please help us do so by:

  • Being personally accountable for your own health: Maintain proper hygiene and social distancing, limit group sizes, and self-isolate if you have flu-like symptoms
  • Taking actions to safeguard the health of Western community members: Wear face coverings in public, and take extra care around vulnerable (immunodeficient, age-65+) individuals
  • Being alert to situations that threaten campus health: Make staff aware of clearly symptomatic individuals, stay abreast of evolving Gunnison County health conditions, and take special care as flu season arrives

We will have an outstanding semester together if You, Me, and We do what is needed of us. Thank you for keeping Western Strong.

Caution and communication will be our guides as we prepare for a successful Fall on campus. To that end: You can count on us reaching out to you each Friday morning these next several weeks with updates specifically on Western Strong campus preparations. You can email with any questions on this front. Stay safe, and look forward.


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success

Letter from the Vice President of Student Success

Dear Western students and families,

When we committed to welcoming students back to our campus in Gunnison for the Fall 2020 semester, we recognized that upholding our share of the commitment you have to Western Colorado University would in large part include measures to ensure everyone’s campus safety, including yours.

For the last several weeks, as students recharge from the schoolyear and begin summer sojourns, we at Western have worked across all campus units and with public health stakeholders to gain confidence that we can overcome challenges of COVID-19 and preserve the Western campus experience. For more than a century, as we’ve evolved from a teacher’s college to a comprehensive institution with 100+ areas of study, Western has innovated and adapted to change. Our persistent and consistent ability to do so makes Western Strong.

Today, we introduce Western Strong—Ensuring Campus Safety, encompassing diverse efforts to prepare for fall here on campus in Gunnison, and to account nimbly for evolving conditions. Below, we update you in broad strokes on some of our discussions and preparations in areas of academic instruction, residence life, and dining.

Academic Instruction

Western’s ability to educate students in flexible yet effective ways is fundamental to our mission. Our tight-knit community and spectacular environment, too, are central to our students’ intellectual and personal growth. COVID-19 presents challenges to traditional interactions among students and faculty, yet also provides opportunities to rethink and improve space utilization and curriculum delivery. In alignment with Gunnison County Health and Human Services, we are creating robust plans around:

  • Enhanced Cleaning: identifying high-traffic spaces, and establishing protocols for frequent sanitization in alignment with CDC recommendations
  • Social Distancing: reconfiguring classroom, residential and community spaces to accommodate individual presence and movement, in accordance with minimum spacing required by health authorities
  • Flexible course modalities: that include in-person, hybrid, and remote learning, as well as “HyFlex” course preparation that would enable us to seamlessly change modality mid-term should health needs warrant it

Residence Life

Residence halls are where many Western students spend much of their days. These environments are highly and informally interactive by nature, so it’s critical that we not only ensure student safety by clearly establishing and enforcing rules, but also by communicating community expectations and activities that not only keep students physically and mentally healthy, but also make them feel comfortable and confident in residential interactions.

Our residence life program will promote safety and community through measures such as:

  • Reconsideration of common areas to allow social distancing while still promoting authentic peer interaction
  • Strengthening community cleanliness standards to minimize risk of airborne illness, and increasing access to personal hygiene supplies
  • Mitigation plans and protocols to quickly support residents who may develop viral symptoms, and for isolation and adaptation if COVID-19 prevalence arises


In the Rare Air Café and Mad Jack’s, we’ve provided a breadth of culinary options to meet a broad spectrum of dietary needs. In partnership with our food service provider Sodexo, we are rethinking and retooling our dining operation, considering initiatives that may include:

  • Increased presence and attention to delicious and diverse Grab ‘n’ Go options for students, with remote ordering via app
  • Demarcation of safe dining zones and clarity of flow to support social distancing in a dynamic cafeteria-style space in which diners may inadvertently intersect
  • Taking advantage of the best-in-class experience and expertise of Sodexo, whose service for 1,000+ colleges and universities ensures access to best-practices adaptation of dining operations

It is fair to say that the canvas of what Western will look like in the fall remains unfinished. We intend this process to evolve and grow day by day and week by week, as we learn and respond to new conditions and perspectives—including from you. We will update you periodically as we further develop our plans for the Fall, and we greatly value you as a member of the Western family. Together, we remain Western Strong.


Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President of Student Success

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):

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Travel
  • Course Materials
  • Technology
  • 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.  

TO APPLY: Please complete this form by May 15

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.


President 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):

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Travel
  • Course Materials
  • Technology
  • 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.  

TO APPLY: Please complete this form by May 15

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.


President 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 If you have questions on Western account balances, contact

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.


President 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.


President 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.

Additional 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.

Supervisor Responsibilities

  • 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.


President 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 (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.


President 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.


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 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:

Operational changes:

  • 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.

President 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.


President 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 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, 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.


President 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

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 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.


President 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 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.


President 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, 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.


President 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, 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 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.


President 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:
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.


President Salsbury

Dear Westerners,

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.


Greg Salsbury


Western Colorado University