Everett Community College. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Everett Community College. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Universities and colleges may reopen in fall, governor says

His order requires masks and physical distancing, among other measures, to help prevent infections.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday cleared the way for Washington’s universities and colleges to welcome students back to campuses this fall.

Public and private universities, colleges, technical schools, apprenticeship programs and similar schools and programs may resume general instruction, including in-person classes and lectures, starting Aug. 1 under a proclamation signed by the governor.

To do so, they must commit to implementing and enforcing requirements such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing aimed at preventing coronavirus infections.

Under the governor’s order, each institution will have to draw up a reopening plan that incorporates guidance developed by a work group of leaders from two- and four-year colleges.

Reopening won’t be easy. Colleges and universities will need to develop programs in which students and staff are asked if they have experienced any COVID-19 symptoms since their last visit to any place on campus. And, to the extent possible, the order calls for creating a means for keeping a log of everyone — students, staff, administrators and visitors — who comes to a campus, information that would be used for tracing contacts of an infected person.

Sanitizing doorknobs, elevators and vending machines, as well as bathrooms, classrooms and high traffic areas, will need to be increased.

In areas where food is served, diners must wear cloth face coverings except while eating. And when it comes to paying, cash is not acceptable. The governor’s order says it should be done with a card or another means that doesn’t require physical contact.

Colleges shuttered campuses and started conducting classes online in early March as the COVID-19 outbreak spread. As businesses reopen and a degree of normalcy returns, colleges are diagramming plans to offer a combination of in-person and remote classes for the fall quarter.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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