Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

This is a rapidly evolving situation and as additional information becomes known, it is likely that our plans will also evolve.  We are asking all of you to be vigilant both in terms of minimizing the risk of spreading the disease through strong sanitary protocols and by being observant and communicative.  This is a time when extraordinary precaution on both fronts can have a significant effect on minimizing the risk to everyone.

Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, diagnosed with COVID-19, exposed to someone with COVID-19, or living with family members who have contracted COVID-19 should STAY HOME, then report their exposure or positive case to the University’s COVID hotline at 509-865-8660.

March 11, 2022

Dear Heritage University Community,

I hope this email finds you and your families safe. While we know Governor Inslee declared our state’s indoor masking mandate will be lifted for schools and businesses effective Monday, March 12, this does not represent the end of the pandemic.

At Heritage, we will continue to make decisions in the best interest of our campus community. While I know we are all feeling fatigued, we believe it is in the best interest of all of us to ease into the changes. Please note the following changes to our policies were crafted with careful consideration and thought for others after gathering input from many campus constituents. We believe these updated policies will help reduce the rate of viral transmission following Spring Break, March 14-18.

  • Masking – Beginning 3/12/22, masks are optional, except in indoor group meeting areas, including classrooms, our library, the ASC, and the Eagles Café (except when eating). N-95 and KN-95 masks are still optimal, but double masks are no longer required should either of those options be unavailable.
  • Anyone not vaccinated for religious or medical reasons must wear a mask.
  • Masks will be required for all visitors, staff, and eligible children at the Early Learning Center.
  • Respect the request. Please put on a mask for your one-on-one interactions if someone near you asks you to do so.
  • Café staff will continue to wear masks.
  • Plexiglas – We will remove Plexiglas from the café and classrooms. Plexiglas will remain at service counters. This gives staff extra protection in areas that may require staff to rotate.
  • Vaccination – This policy will remain the same.
  • Reporting and exposure – students and employees still need to report exposures. Do not come to campus if you are sick or think you have been exposed to COVID-19. Report any exposure or positive case to the University’s COVID hotline at 509-865-8660.

We will continue to evaluate all local data and adjust our policies as circumstances warrant.

Thank you for your continued diligence and patience as we work together to ensure we reach the end of this beyond challenging time as safely as possible.

Sincerely,

Andrew C. Sund, Ph.D.
President

January 14, 2022

Dear Heritage University Community:

As we went into the winter break, it was with great hope that the tide was beginning to turn on the Coronavirus. And then, with great rapidity, the Omicron variant emerged. While the Omicron variant is not as severe in terms of symptoms or hospitalizations, it is significantly more contagious. With coronavirus cases in Yakima County at an all-time high, and projections estimating that the peak in cases may not occur for several weeks, it is with deep regret, but out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of us all, that I announce today that we will revert to an all-online course delivery schedule for the first two weeks of the spring semester.

All courses will be delivered online for the first two weeks of the semester, starting Tuesday, January 18, through Sunday, January 30. Your instructors will post a zoom link for your classes on the course page in MyHeritage. If you do not hear from your instructor, please contact (509) 865-8663 or email studentaffairs@heritage.edu for assistance. All classes will be taught at their scheduled times.

The rationale for this decision is the potential for spreading the virus within the close confines of the classrooms.

It is important to note that campus will remain open and that all staff will report to campus as regularly scheduled. Students can access the Library, Dining Commons, Academic Skills Center, Student Affairs, IT Help Center, Registrar, and all other campus services needed, such as WiFi and printing. The staff will be on campus to help support students.

A reminder that all persons coming to campus must be vaccinated unless they have an approved exemption. Additionally, all are encouraged to get a booster shot if they have not already done so.

Additionally, we are making a change to our masking policy. In alignment with CDC guidance, all persons on campus must wear either an N-95, a KN-95, or be double-masked with a surgical mask in addition to a cloth mask. Surgical masks are widely available throughout campus. 

No single cloth masks nor single surgical masks are permissible until further notice. 

The following safety protocols remain in place:

  1. Masks are required in all interior spaces. The exception is the café, where you can remove your masks while eating/drinking.
  2. Social distancing at a minimum of 3-feet.
  3. Maintain enhanced cleaning protocols.

Do not come to campus if you are sick or think you have been exposed to COVID-19. Report any exposure or positive cases to the University’s COVID hotline (509) 865-8660.

We strongly recommend that our entire community continue with prevention protocols such as frequent hand washing and covering your cough.

Finally, it is important to note that, much like everything with the pandemic, these policies may change as circumstances in our environment change. We will continue to provide regular updates.

I am sorry to have to once again delay the resumption of a more normal campus community life. I hope we can all return to in-person learning on Monday, January 31.

Be safe, be well, be strong, be kind. 

Thank you,

Andrew C. Sund, Ph.D.
President

September 14, 2021

Dear Heritage University Community,

On September 10, 2021, the Yakama Nation released a letter stating they would go back to Phase II. While schools are closed under Phase I regulations, they are not specified for closure under Phase II and may remain open under Phase III.  At this point, the Yakama Nation Tribal School and all public schools within the nation remain open. Additionally, all Yakama Nation enterprises will remain open. We have consulted with the Yakama Nation Department of Human Services, the Yakama Indian Health Clinic, and members of the Tribal Council. They all believe that the measures we have taken to protect students, staff, and faculty are excellent.

We recognize the Yakama Nation’s sovereignty, and believe we are operating as an enterprise service exceeding all safety measures.  At this time, Heritage University will remain open and operate as we have under our existing COVID-19 policies.  We also believe that closing campus would be detrimental to the learning outcomes of our students. All Yakama nation officials we reached out to, agreed with this assessment.

We know these are incredibly difficult times, and we would like to use this opportunity to remind individuals to:

  1. Always wear a mask indoors and when out in public;
  2. Only eat in designated areas in the café and only remove your mask when actively eating;
  3. Maintain social distance as much as possible and always wear a mask when social distancing outdoors is not possible; and
  4. Stay home and get tested if you are experiencing COVID-like symptoms.

We can all do our part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by taking extra precautions when out in the community. For more information COVID-19 please visit the CDC Website and Washington State Department of Health.

Thank you,

Andrew C. Sund, Ph.D.
President

Vaccines and Faith

A collection of resources compiled by the Rev. David Hacker

August 30, 2021

From The Rev. David Hacker, director of Spirituality and Learning at Heritage:

“In these uncertain or unprecedented times, reliable and trusted information about Covid-19 is critical. Also, as people of faith wonder whether they should seek a religious exception for the vaccine, I thought it important to offer a few resources from a diversity of faith traditions on this topic.

I have compiled the following statements and resources from a diversity of faith leaders and interfaith organizations. You can download those faith-based resources by clicking on the banner below.

As the Director of Student Spirituality and Learning here at Heritage, I am also available to speak to any students, staff and faculty who wrestle with this question. Please reach out to me at Hacker_D@heritage.edu.

Text of Pope Francis on Vaccines:

In a brotherly spirit, I join in this message of hope for a brighter future. Thanks to God and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19. They grant us the hope of ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we work together.

Being vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the competent authorities is an act of love. And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love. Love for oneself, love for one’s family and friends, love for all people. Love is also social and political, there is social love and political love; it is universal, always overflowing with small gestures of personal charity capable of transforming and improving societies (cf. Laudato si’, no. 231, cf. Fratelli tutti, 184).

Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable. I pray to God that everyone may contribute their own small grain of sand, their own small gesture of love; no matter how small, love is always great. Contribute with these small gestures for a better future.

God bless you, and thank you.

+FRANCIS

Con espíritu fraterno, me uno a este mensaje de esperanza en un futuro más luminoso. Gracias a Dios y al trabajo de muchos, hoy tenemos vacunas para protegernos del COVID-19. Ellas traen esperanza para acabar con la pandemia, pero sólo si están disponibles para todos y si colaboramos unos con otros.

Vacunarse, con vacunas autorizadas por las autoridades competentes, es un acto de amor. Y ayudar a que la mayoría de la gente lo haga, es un acto de amor. Amor a uno mismo, amor a los familiares y amigos, amor a todos los pueblos. El amor es también social y político, hay amor social y amor político, es universal, siempre desbordante de pequeños gestos de caridad personal capaces de transformar y mejorar las sociedades (cf. Laudato si’, 231; Fratelli tutti, 184).

Vacunarse es un modo sencillo pero profundo de promover el bien común y de cuidarnos unos a otros, especialmente a los más vulnerables. Le pido a Dios para que cada uno pueda aportar su pequeño grano de arena, su pequeño gesto de amor, por más pequeño que sea el amor siempre es grande. Aportar esos pequeños gestos para un futuro mejor.

+FRANCIS

July 19, 2021

Heritage University announced our decision to return to in-person instruction on June 15, 2021.  In the letter from President Andrew Sund to our community, we announced also that in order to return to campus safely, we would require all students, staff, and faculty be fully vaccinated to decrease the spread of COVID-19.  All decisions made during this pandemic are grounded in scientific research and data.  We follow guidance from the Washington State Health Department, the Center for Disease control, and we work closely with the Yakima County Health District.  We frequently consult with community health experts and biologist who know our community and review the latest peer-reviewed research related to COVID-19.  It is important to know and understand that viruses by nature mutate and change, that viral load and transmission can increase with variants and decrease with vaccinations.  We fully understand and appreciate these are difficulty times and the decision to receive a vaccination is a personal choice. Below please find information regarding our safe open procedures. These procedures are subject to change any given time based on science and data; if we need to reevaluate or plan, we will and again will do so based on safety measures.

Return to Campus Safe-Open Plan

Attestation

Effective August 2, 2021 all faculty, staff and students coming to the Heritage University Toppenish campus agree to the following terms and conditions.

  1. I will not come to campus if experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms.
  2. I will report to the University administration if I am diagnosed with COVID-19 or if I have been exposed to another person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  3. I will wear a mask in all indoor spaces when on campus except when actively eating or drinking in the Dining Commons.
  4. I will maintain a safe social distance from others defined at three feet apart.
  Vaccination Information for Students
  • All students must be fully vaccinated and a copy of their vaccination record uploaded through dynamic forms to the Office of Student Affairs by or before classes start. There are three exemptions that Students may apply for:
  1. A medical exemption (requires documentation from a healthcare provider),
  2. Sincerely held religious convictions (requires documentation or reference from clergy), or
  3. Exceptional extenuating circumstances (requires a statement or explanation).

The portal below is designed to allow all new and returning students to send proof of vaccination by uploading a photo or .pdf copy of your COVID-19 vaccination card. If you have lost your card, the Office of Student Affairs will work with you to secure a new vaccination card from the Washington State Department of Health Immunization Records Office.

Medical exemptions require a medical note from a Washington State healthcare provider; religious exemptions will require documentation from the clergy or church.  Exemption requests for extenuating circumstances will be reviewed by the Office for Student Affairs, and if approved students, will receive a letter from our office granting or denying the exemption by August 2nd.  All decisions are final.  Students that are denied an exemption will have a grace period to comply with the requirement to be vaccinated.  Every effort will be made to work with students on their exemption requests.

  1. Log into Myheritage
  2. Click on Student COVID Information
  3. Below are two links to the two forms, one for Vaccination Verification and one for Exemption Requests.

Vaccination Access

On July 30th from 10am to 2pm we will host a vaccination clinic on campus, pre-register here.

If you have questions, please contact:

Office of Student Affairs

Phone: 509-955-8681 (zoom)

Email: Studentaffairs@heritage.edu

Masks

Masks are required indoors in public spaces at all times including in the restroom.

Masks may be removed while actively eating and drinking in the Café.

Masks are optional while meeting an office, classroom, or conference room with a closed door if all parties are vaccinated and all individuals agree to unmask temporarily.

Social Distancing

Continue with social distancing and follow suggested floor markers.  Social Distancing is three feet apart.

Handwashing

Continue to wash hands frequently with soap and warm water and use hand sanitizations stations as you enter buildings.

Disinfecting

Sanitation wipes will be provided and additional staff will be on site during the day to disinfect.  Staff, students and faculty are also encouraged to disinfect their areas, tables, and desks before they leave an area.

June 15, 2021

Dear Heritage University Community:

Like many of you, I am anxious to return to work on campus. I look forward to the beginning of the Fall semester helping students find their classrooms as they walk from building to building. It is their first step in pursuit of their academic dreams. However, we must prepare for this return.

The biggest responsibility we have as an administration is to assure that we can provide a safe environment for everyone to work and study at Heritage. After much thought, research, and analysis, we have decided that we will require all staff, faculty, and students to be vaccinated for the Covid-19 virus before returning to campus. We have decided this because the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that the vaccines are effective and safe. It is also the recommendation of the Yakima County Health District, the State of Washington, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. A failure to require vaccinations would legally and ethically constitute a direct threat to the safety of staff, faculty, and students.

The only exceptions to the requirement are for individuals that:

  1. Have medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated.
  2. Have sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from being vaccinated.
  3. Have other extenuating and exceptional circumstances (evaluated on an individual basis) that prevent them from being vaccinated.

The administration will work with individuals falling into the categories above to find reasonable accommodations.

When we return in the Fall, we will continue to:

  1. Require masks in interior spaces. The exception to this is the café, where we can remove our masks while eating.
  2. Require social distancing at a minimum of 3-feet.
  3. Maintain enhanced cleaning protocols.

In addition, to requiring vaccinations, we strongly recommend that our entire community continue with prevention protocols such as frequent hand washing and covering your cough.

If you have not received your Covid-19 vaccine, we strongly recommend that you get it as soon as possible. This way you will be ready to return by August. We will also have a vaccination day on campus. Additional information regarding this event is forthcoming.

In a different communication, we will provide the procedures on how we will collect vaccination information and enforce the policies we have developed.

Finally, it is important to note that, much like everything with the pandemic, these policies may change as circumstances in our environment change.

I look forward to our work this Fall and seeing you on campus!

Sincerely,

President Andrew C. Sund, Ph.D.

April 29, 2021

Heritage University plans to return to full in-person instruction for the upcoming fall 2021 semester. The plan takes into account the progress Yakima County has made towards preventing the spread of Covid-19 and the increasing number of vaccinated residents in the county. These trends have boosted our confidence that we can fully reopen campus in time for fall.  We will continue to rely on the Yakima County Health District, as well as State and Federal authorities, to ensure our plans are consistent with their guidance regarding current Covid-19 protocols.

February 21, 2021

Dear Heritage University Community,

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has posted new guidelines around the use of masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  Going forward, we are asking that individuals coming onto campus wear a mask that fits snugly against the face without gaps and covers the mouth and nose completely.  This is especially important while individuals are indoors and around others. Double masking, while not required, can also help prevent the spread of the virus.  Neck gaiters made of polyester or spandex, bandanas, and masks with valves or vents have been proven by studies to be less or ineffective against preventing the spread of the virus.  Thus, these masks are not acceptable for use while on campus.

Masking up is not a substitute for social distancing.  In areas, such as the library and café, no more than two individuals may occupy a large table at one time. Additionally, consuming food and drinks requires the removal of a mask. Therefore, food must be consumed in the Café to ensure facilities staff can properly disinfect areas after each use. Food may also be consumed in a personal vehicle or closed office space.

Thank you for doing your part to keep our campus safe.

Resources