The University of Washington recently announced that face coverings are now optional for fully vaccinated individuals at UW campuses and facilities. For the safety of our patients, staff, students, trainees and faculty, UW Medicine employees are required to continue to mask in all patient care areas, hospitals and clinics consistent with CDC, Washington State Labor and Industries, and public health recommendations.
As our community reopens and variants of concern, most notably the Delta variant, increase in circulation, we must continue to prioritize the safety of our patients and co-workers. The safest options for individuals to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 are a combination of vaccination, masking, physical distancing, staying home when ill and getting tested with any symptoms.
To align activities with University policy, UW and UW Medicine employees working in non-clinical spaces outside of hospitals, clinics and patient care areas may now follow campus guidance on masking for vaccinated employees. Those who are unvaccinated are required to continue masking per the updated UW Medicine Required and Extended Use Policy (AMC login). The policy is also posted on UW Medicine COVID-19 Resource Site (see Section 02: Personal Protective Equipment).
Supervisors/managers/department leaders/program directors must verify that an individual they supervise is vaccinated before allowing that person to work without a mask in a non-clinical space. These reports for UW Medicine personnel are being built now. Reports for UW personnel are available via Workday.
Masks are required in hallways, elevators, stairways and bathrooms that may overlap with patients, their visitors and their families. Masking in meetings in non-clinical spaces where vaccination status of participating individuals is not confirmed is strongly encouraged.
Guidance for Clinical and Non-Clinical Spaces
*How do I know when I am in a clinical space?
UWMC – Montlake clinical spaces:
- Hospital floors 1, 2 and 3 go to the AA wing double doors prior to (east of) the lobby of the Health Sciences Building. In applying this rule, please be sensitive to the location of Dental clinics, which do extend into the HSB in the A and D wings.
- Hospital floors 4-8 end at Pacific elevator doorway leading into Health Sciences Building.
- The Roosevelt Clinic Buildings 1 and 2, Eastside Specialty Center, Stadium Sports Medicine Clinic, Edmonds Cardiology Clinic, and the Yakima and Arlington Maternal Fetal Clinics.
UWMC – Northwest clinical spaces:
- The main hospital building, Outpatient Medical Center, and all clinic spaces on or off the main hospital campus.
- If you work outside of the main hospital building and no patient care is performed on your floor, masking is optional if you are fully vaccinated. Masks must be worn in public areas shared by patients such as elevators and hallways.
Harborview clinical spaces:
- The main hospital building (including the Maleng Building) and off-campus clinics (e.g., Pioneer Square Clinic).
- Ninth & Jefferson Building floors 1 through 11, except for research spaces with locked entrances on those floors.
- Patricia Steel Building floors 1 and 2.
- HMC COVID-19 vaccine clinics and vans.
- Edward Thomas House Medical Respite, DESC and other shelters and spaces served by UW Medicine personnel.
Airlift Northwest: Employees can follow the University of Washington masking policy when at base and during flights without patients.
UW Neighborhood Clinics: Masking is required in all UWNC clinics.
South Lake Union: Masking is required in all SLU clinics and adjacent entrances, elevators and bathrooms. Employees can follow the UW face covering policy elsewhere at the site.
Prosthetics and Orthotics Clinic: Masking is required of all healthcare workers and vendors .
UW Medicine clinical laboratories: Masking is required of all healthcare workers and vendors.
UW Tower: UW Medicine employees who work in the UW Tower can follow the University of Washington face covering policy.
UW Health Sciences Building: The Health Sciences Building is not considered a clinical space (dental clinics are an exception). Please be sensitive to the location of dental clinics, which extend into the HSB in the A and D wings. See “UWMC – ML clinical spaces” above for the demarcation between HSB and UWMC – Montlake.
Other Off-site Administrative Buildings without any clinical activity (ex. Columbia Center, South Lake Union Building C): UW Medicine employees should follow the University of Washington face covering policy.
Can we have meetings?
UW Medicine is working on updated guidance for retreats, meetings and gatherings based on vaccination status. Meetings may be held in clinical spaces with all participants masked, distanced as possible, and without eating or drinking. Because many of our staff are unvaccinated or have underlying medical conditions, virtual meeting options should be offered whenever possible.
Please continue to mask indoors when meeting with groups whose vaccination status is unknown or if unsure if the area is a clinical space. All units, services and teams must have a plan for continued operations in the event of a COVID-19 exposure among unmasked individuals, including those who are vaccinated, that could require quarantine and/or isolation of individuals or groups.
Can I continue to mask in non-clinical spaces?
We encourage you to continue wearing face coverings wherever and whenever you wish for any reason. Not only do many units and departments have employees who are not vaccinated, we also have employees whose medical conditions put them at higher risk for infection or may make the vaccine less effective.
Masking and COVID-19 related restrictions have become a way of life for all of us. Starting to relax these policies brings optimism, along with understandable anxiety and uncertainty about the future. We could not be more grateful to the UW Medicine community for getting us to where we are today as well as for your dedication to employee and patient safety. Please feel free to contact the local Infection Prevention & Control or Employee Health teams (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) with any questions.
Seth Cohen, MD, MSc
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control and Employee Health
UW Medical Center
John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine