COVID-19 Updates & Resources

Your Questions––Answered

Your Questions––Answered

We know you have questions, and we will strive to answer them as best we can. If you have a question on a topic that isn’t listed below, please contact us here.

COVID-19 Vaccination FAQs

Yes. Western’s vaccination requirement will allow for medical exemptions. Other exemptions may be requested through a form we are currently developing.

We are required to follow Gunnison County’s Public Health Order that is set to expire July 1, 2021. Unless the Public Health director ends the mask mandate prior to that date, we must comply with the order. It is believed the mask mandate will end with the expiration of the Public Health Order on July 1; however, changing conditions could lead the Public Health director to extend the mandate.

A form for exemptions is being developed and will be posted to our website.

Western requires students to be vaccinated for other illnesses than COVID-19, such as Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. This is done to protect the health and safety of our campus. We will allow for exemptions due to medical and other specified reasons.

Schedule and Operations

The 2021 Spring semester will begin, as scheduled, on January 11, 2021. Spring Break will occur as scheduled.

Spring Orientation will take place on January 9 at 2 p.m. Orientation will be in-person and follow the social distancing and personal health and safety protocols currently in place in Gunnison County. For more information on Spring Orientation, visit the Orientation Department webpage.

Move-In Dates:

  • New students: January 9
  • Returning Residents: January 10

Please complete the WesternSafe health screening survey prior to your arrival on campus.

Before you leave home:

  • Bring no more than two support people to help you move in.
  • Fill out your Emergency Plan at
  • Pack all items in enclosed boxes or containers. We are recruiting volunteers from Mt. Movers to help you move your items safely and securely. If your items are packaged incorrectly, you alone will be responsible for moving them in.
  • Your hall’s Resident Director has provided you with move-in details specific to your hall.
  • Bring a thermometer, extra masks, disinfectant cleaning supplies for your personal space and hand sanitizer.

When you arrive:

  • Contact the Office of Residence Life at 970.943.2101 if your travel plans are altered.
  • You will begin with the temperature check. Western staff will take touchless temperatures of each vehicle occupant and will ask if anyone has any symptoms related to COVID-19.
    • Once temp is confirmed below 100.4, we will give you a W sticker to show at the assigned check-in location to serve as confirmation.
    • If symptoms arise, you will be asked to call the Gunnison County Health & Human Services COVID-19 Hotline for added guidance.
    • You will not be allowed to move into your assigned hall, if county health determines your symptoms may be related to COVID-19, until such symptoms subside.
  • Vehicles will be guided to an assigned parking area, and occupants will be asked to unload all items into an assigned area at once.
  • As you depart your vehicle, wear your mask.
  • Approach the outside check-in table and use the hand sanitizer on the check-in table and/or wash your hands once you enter the hall.
  • Please follow flow patterns (entry and exit) in the halls.
  • Community bathrooms in first-year areas will be cleaned twice a day.
  • Residents in suite or apartment-style living are responsible for their own disinfectant cleaning supplies.
  • High-touch areas will be cleaned three times a day (twice by custodial staff and once by Resident Assistants.)
  • If a resident’s roommate is symptomatic and not self-isolating or notifying anyone, please have the resident communicate this to a student Resident Assistant (RA) or professional Resident Director (RD) assigned to the building.

We have worked all summer and fall, with county public health partners and CDC guidance, to reconsider spaces and operations to decrease the likelihood of viral spread. A full list of such adaptations would be too long to list here, and they will evolve as conditions change. Here, we outline some specific changes being made to certain physical environments:

Residence Halls:

  • High-touch areas will be cleaned three times a day; community bathrooms will be cleaned twice a day
  • Common areas will have required mask-wearing and reduced capacity, calculated and in accord with County Health recommendations to maximize social distancing)
  • Residence halls will have a no-guest policy
  • Some spaces will have improved filtration and ventilation
  • Increased access to hygiene and sanitation materials in bathrooms and common areas

Dining Halls:

  • Mask-wearing required until you are at your table and are eating
  • One-way flow through Rare Air Café food-service area (all “normal” options available and all dietary restrictions accommodated!)
  • Touchless service, and elimination of self-service for your safety
  • New Bite+ App, enabling you to order ahead of time to minimize stand-around time
  • Increased Rare Air Café spacing and substantial reduction in maximum capacity; substantially increased dining spaces in meeting rooms throughout the University Center 2nd floor


  • We are providing masks and shields (either face-fitting or standalone Plexiglas) to all faculty members for classroom use.
  • The university will utilize several tents to enable courses (barring inclement weather) to be taught outside with greater distancing
  • All faculty will have on-demand access to a camera and microphone; students whose symptom screening requires them to stay home will be able to continue their classes from their Gunnison residence.
  • All students will be expected to clean personal spaces in classrooms before and 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.
  • Our Course Catalog now has updated modalities for numerous courses faculty have opted to move online-only or into hybrid mode.

Winter NCAA athletics will take place as scheduled.

University Center: We will be using the ballroom this fall as a dining facility for our students. The North and South Conference rooms can only accommodate small meetings up to 8 people and will available on a limited basis. Common spaces on the first floor will be utilized for Mad Jack’s dining seating and limited common seating for students. The second floor will have limited seating in the common spaces. The Games Area will be closed.

Hours of operation will be:
University Center: 7:15 a.m. – 9 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. weekends
Mad Jacks: 7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. weekdays; 1 p.m. – 9 p.m. weekends
Rare Air Café: 7:15 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. weekdays, 4:45 p.m. – 7 p.m. (6:00 p.m. Fridays)
10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. – 6:15 p.m. weekends
Bookstore: 7:45 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekdays
Mail Center: 8 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. weekdays

Mountaineer Field House: The Mountaineer Field House is open in limited capacity for individual fitness activities, group classes. For more information and hours, please click on this link.


Visit the Gunnison County Health and Human Services webpage.

We are setting robust expectations and protocols to diagnose and respond to COVID-19.

Screening: Western has contracted with Gunnison Valley Health (GVH) for screening and testing services, with direct leadership from GVH nurse and infection preventionist Jodie Leonard, RN, CIC and support from other GVH staff.

The WesternSafe (non-location-tracking), to launch in early January, is essential for all Western faculty, students and staff. We ask them to respond daily—before leaving home—to survey questions on their symptoms or exposure. If survey responses suggest risk, the individual is asked to remain home and immediately call the Gunnison County COVID-19 Hotline at 970-641-7660, and the individual will be asked additional screening questions. If County Hotline follow-up suggests testing is needed, the individual will be scheduled for a COVID-19 test, likely within the next 24 hours, and advised further. Gunnison County is not currently testing asymptomatic individuals, and the Colorado Department of Higher Education does not recommend testing all individuals, though some institutions may plan to do so.

COVID-19 testing will be conducted by GVH at a dedicated Western campus location, well-spaced from high-traffic campus areas. Test results will be conveyed to the individual and to county public health. An individual receiving a positive COVID-19 result must remain home and immediately contact Dean of Students Gary Pierson at and 970-943-2049. Dean Pierson will then advise the student directly on numerous support aspects—ranging from meal delivery, to academic resources, to physical and mental health resources, and more. Dean Pierson also at that point will follow up with selected campus personnel to address other operational aspects relevant to many areas ranging from facilities hygiene, to communication, to accommodation of roommates, and more.

A strong contact tracing program, with quick and reliable notification and directives for those who may come into contact with the virus, is another tool for reducing potential COVID-19 impact to Western and Gunnison. We have dedicated Gunnison County Health & Human Services personnel, led by community health nurse Ashley Akerlund, RN, BSN, to lead our virus reporting and contact tracing program.

Western also is conducting stratified random testing throughout the semester in an effort to screen for undiagnosed cases and track transmission of COVID-19. If you are not selected for a screening, you may be able to register for a test. Please go to our “Other Resources” page for more information.

To ensure that residence hall residents with positive COVID-19 diagnoses are not in contact with the rest of the campus population, we have set aside a full floor of one of our residence halls, with dedicated bathrooms, specifically for that purpose, and Western has engaged several local hotels as potential locations for overflow quarantine space should circumstances warrant. Food and other essential deliveries and support services to quarantined individuals will be managed in a contactless manner by Student Affairs.

To minimize likelihood of community viral spread, Roommates of COVID-19 positive or symptomatic individuals will also be subject to self-quarantine, for the same time period required of the primarily affected individual. Quarantine entails numerous potential scenarios, and our County Public Health partnership will ensure we align with best practices in any scenario.

Yes, per Gunnison County Health & Human Services countywide recommendations. The county also requires that self-quarantining individuals monitor daily for COVID-19 symptoms during that period, and defer travel to Gunnison if you have symptoms in that period.

A student or employee who has had COVID-19 symptoms and was either:

  • Confirmed with positive COVID-19 test
  • Directed to self-isolate, based on guidance from the WesternSafe App and/or Gunnison County health personnel

must, per CDC and local guidelines, have allowed 72 hours to pass at home since all symptoms have concluded without aid of medication, and must have allowed 14 days to pass since symptom onset.

For faculty, staff, and workstudy students who meet the above criteria: Before coming to campus or your worksite, notify your supervisor and Western Human Resources by phone to discuss and get supervisor confirmation that you are ready to return to work.

University Counseling Center:

  • Appointments: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekdays (closed from 12 – 1 p.m. for lunch) To protect staff and student safety,please call in advance at 970.642.4615 to schedule an appointment and learn about counseling service options
  • Same-Day Access: 2 – 3 p.m. weekdays (students are encouraged to call ahead when using the “same-day access” hour)
  • Students are required to wear a face cover/mask in the Center and student temperatures will be taken upon arrival

Campus Health Center:

  • 9 a.m. – noon and 1 – 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Friday
  • To protect staff and student safety, students must call the C Center at 970.943.2707, to schedule an appointment and learn about medical service options. No walk-ins are accepted at this time.
  • Students are required to wear a face cover/maskin the Center and student temperatures will be taken upon arrival

For all appointments, please arrive on time to reduce wait times and possible congestion in surrounding public areas. Contact Scott Cantril, director of Student Health and Wellness, with any questions.

Reporting Information

In the earlier days of the pandemic, numbers were low enough that the lag times in reporting and discrepancies between Western and the official source (the county) were minimal. Now that the virus is far more pervasive, the workload involved in reporting COVID-19 related numbers and the discrepancies between the numbers are likely to be greater. Accordingly, we believe it makes sense for Western to now simply refer people to the official source itself—the Gunnison County website and report. Our partner, Gunnison County Public Health, is dependent upon a volunteer staff to track coronavirus cases, and are experiencing serious capacity limitations, resulting in some lag in their reporting as well. The best indicator to determine the number of cases at Western is by viewing the figures reported in the 18-25 year-old age group.

Academic Updates

Most classes, including labs, will be held in person, in classrooms: where we have made major adaptations to support social distancing, cleanliness and hygiene. A small proportion of Spring 2021 classes are online-only, and some classes will have a “hybrid” mode, with students attending some class sessions in-person, others partially or fully online. Faculty are preparing courses in a flexible manner to enable them to transition online more seamlessly if campus health conditions change mid-semester.

Western commits to providing the same education, support, and crediting regardless of the educational modality. Therefore, tuition cost will remain the same.

Western also commits to continuing curriculum even if public health conditions change. We would likely consider some remedy or credit if campus presence is disrupted, depending on circumstances and timing.

You can, as is always true with Western admission and enrollment. That said, in light of the difficult job market and restricted travel, this may be a great year to continue your education with other opportunities being limited.

Though we intend for all students to join us on campus this semester, it may be possible for some students to complete their Spring 2021 curriculum path online, with accommodations you would make on a professor-by-professor basis. If you wish to seek an online Spring 2021 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. If you have medical imperative to study remotely, contact Cheyenne Terry at Disability Services.

Western’s academic programs include many disciplines for which performance and exhibition are key to curriculum and community engagement. As a result, there can be theatrical, musical, or art events at Western this Spring, if they align with county public health guidelines. Such events and performances additionally would need to align with Western’s standard event policies, available in the Student Affairs section of Western’s internal Collaborate website.

Such events would occur with certain restrictions: for example, current Colorado guidelines stipulate that performers must be at least 25 feet from audiences, so some venues typically used may be offline, while outdoor venues (such as the Quigley outdoor bandshell) may see more use. Cultural event guidelines may shift as state and county health circumstances change.

Campus and Residence Life

The Office of Student Affairs has developed COVID-19 Campus Protocols and Expectations for Students, a key document for all students to adhere to. 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.

Contact Residence Life at 970.943.2101 with any questions on these procedures.

Students will be able to have roommates. We will follow state and local guidance on what is acceptable and advisable, and adapt residence halls to reduce risk to good health and welfare.

Prospective Students and Campus Visits

Yes, with limited capacity to ensure safety and social distancing. After a brief break to accommodate move-in and the start of classes, campus tours will resume Monday, January 11 and occur daily from the Welcome Center in Taylor Hall, with information session beginning at 10:30 a.m. and the tour beginning at 11 a.m. In-person tours will be limited to 10 individuals and you can schedule a visit at this page. All campus visitors, including prospective students and families, are required to wear masks on the tour.

Note that there are numerous ways to discover Western from your computer: see this page for our Virtual Tour and other Western resources. Please note that both Spring 2021 Preview Days have been canceled. Contact Admissions at 970-943-2119 with any questions you may have on experiencing Western.

Faculty and Staff Resources

With the January 2021 launch of the WesternSafe app and expected widespread usage of it in Spring 2021, it is anticipated that when school is in session, initial case notifications will come directly from Gunnison Valley Public Health personnel. If you are the first at Western to learn of a positive case, please follow this process to report the (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 with appropriate stakeholders—DO NOT identify the individual in any communications with any other parties.

For more on faculty/staff reporting protocols, see the July 23 email in Executive Communications on COVID-19 section.

We continue to advise that Western faculty and staff work from home if their job duties permit remote work.

If you need equipment or assistance related to studying or working remotely, please submit a request through the IT Work order system. IT staff are able to fix most problems remotely but will schedule an in-person appointment with you if necessary. The primary tools available for staff remote access are:

  • Zoom Conferencing Service
    • We have a Zoom account for all employees. You can activate your account by going to and selecting Sign In.  Use your email address as the username and your regular Western password. NOTE: If you are already using a Zoom account, you should continue to use that account.
      After you have activated your account, you may also install a mobile app on your phone. If you choose to use the app, you must select SSO and enter “western” when prompted. Sign in with your email address and normal password.
      Zoom is intuitive but if you need a quick tutorial, put in a work request and we will walk you through Zoom use.
  • Office 365 Suite
    • Office365 provides access to the Microsoft Office Suite of desktop tools (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) as well as OneDrive for online file storage/sharing, Use your email address as the username and your Western password to login.
    • You can access your email from any device by going to
    • Forward your Western phone number to a cell phone by using the Shoretel desktop application.
    • If you are already set up and using access Banner from home, you may continue to do so.
  • Native web services like MyWestern, Skype for Business, etc. will work as usual.

Equipment: If your Western computer is a laptop (late model PC or Mac; not Chromebook) equipped with a camera, you should have what you need for basic requirements. The Zoom client is very effective by phone. We have a limited number of laptops, webcams, etc. on site and will distribute these on a case-by-case basis.

Refer to this online guide created by Western library staff that offers resources, tips, articles and tutorials to help you deliver courses in online format.

Western faculty and staff on athletic or field trips should note these procedures for Spring 2021:

  1. No more than 10 individuals in each vehicle, including driver. When reserving vehicles for trips, consider that you may need to reserve more vehicles than usual to meet the guidelines.
  2. Masks must be worn by driver and passengers at all times in the vehicle.
  3. Vehicle drivers and passengers should all be using the daily WesternSafe app screeners to ensure they are asymptomatic, or to self-report COVID-19-related symptoms: which would prohibit them from entering a university vehicle.
  4. Hand sanitizer is supplied in each vehicle; please utilize it, and wash hands often.
  5. We will suspend back-to-back reservations, due to enhanced safety procedures and prolonged cleaning/disinfecting times. There will be at least 24 hours of downtime after each reservation to clean and disinfect each vehicle.

You should see the client pop up during a computer restart. If you do not, hit the Windows Key and type Global and you should see the client installed (see below).

Please submit an IT work request if you have any access issues related to VPN.

Documents: Documents on Canvas and Blackboard need to be accessible to students with disabilities. For documents using the Office 360, built-in accessibility checkers will provide feedback on errors and guidance on how to fix them.

Text Equivalents for Audio and Video: For any recordings, either audio or video, a text equivalent must be provided. For audio, this is a transcript; for video, captions. The best way to create a text equivalent is to write a script and record from that. However, if this is not an option, you can use auto-generated captioning tools like YouTube or to generate a transcript or caption file. You will need to edit the file to be accurate; auto-generated captions are typically only 60-70% accurate

Make a text announcement in advance of a live video call informing students about the live meeting, and tell students to reach out to Disability Services if they need live captioning.

Text Equivalents for Images: Any images included in the course site need a text description. In documents, the accessibility checker will advise on how to add a text description. In Canvas or Blackboard, the image uploader may have a field for alternate text, which is where you can add a brief description of the image. We recommend this description be no longer than 140 characters.

For more about creating an accessible course, contact Cheyenne Terry at Disability Services at 970-943-2113.

The state of Colorado has authorized 30 days of paid administrative leave for individuals who are unable to work due to COVID-19. Individuals with COVID-19 illness must complete the state self-report form (in lieu of a doctor’s note) to receive this benefit.

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires employers, including Western, to provide employees – faculty, staff and temporary – with (1) emergency paid sick leave or (2) expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

Effective Dates: The FFCRA is effective through December 31, 2020.

Qualifying Reasons for Leave: Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) if the employee is unable to work (or telework) because the employee:

  • Is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  • Has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  • Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • Is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  • Is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19;
  • Is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

Eligibility: The emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) applies to all employees – faculty, staff and temporary. The expanded family and medical leave provides emergency public health leave (EPHL) for all employees – faculty, staff and temporary – who have been employed at least 30 days.

Duration of Leave: For reasons (1) – (4) and (6): A full-time employee is eligible for up to 80 hours of EPSL, and a part-time employee is eligible for the number of hours of leave that the employee works on average over a two-week period.

For reason (5): A full-time employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave (2 weeks EPSL and up to 10 weeks EPHL) at 40 hours a week, and a part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period.

Calculation of Pay: Employees unable to work for leave reasons (1) – (4) and (6): EPSL shall be paid at either their regular rate or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate (over a 2-week period).

Employees unable to work for leave reason (5): EPSL and EPHL shall be paid at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $12,000 in the aggregate (over a 12-week period—two weeks of paid sick leave followed by up to 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave). Employees may supplement the 2/3 pay with their own accrued leave to make wages whole.

Any employee in need of either type of FFCRA leave must complete the request form and forward it to Kim Gailey, Human Resources Director.

How to Help

If you are inspired to support our students with a donation, please consider a gift to the Western CARES (Critical Aid Relief Emergency Support) Fund. Your gift will support students who need assistance with unexpected emergency expenses and other essentials to sustain their continued education and success at Western.