Governor Issues New COVID Restrictions For Washington Colleges; More Deaths In Whitman County
BY SALLY HO / AP
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee will now require colleges and universities to provide quarantine facilities for all students if they are exposed to COVID-19.
The governor on Tuesday issued more restrictions for higher education campuses as the University of Washington struggles to contain an outbreak among its fraternities and sororities. There have been outbreaks in Whitman County, home of Washington State University, as well.
(NWPB Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, Oct. 20, Whitman County announced three additional COVID-19 deaths, bringing the county’s total deaths to seven since the pandemic began. All have come in October.)
“We do have fair expectations that students will step up to the plate and take some responsibility for this,” Inslee said.
Also Tuesday, state health officials warned of a “fall surge” in coronavirus infections, noting that western Washington counties are hitting near or above previous peaks in the rate of infections.
The new higher education guidelines now require the colleges to provide isolation and quarantine facilities for Greek system houses, communal off-campus homes, and students and workers who live on campus if they don’t have a place to go.
Colleges without dorms or residential facilities must create a plan on how to address student and staff needs for isolation and quarantine in the event that they are exposed.
The University of Washington has been trying to manage a coronavirus outbreak in recent weeks since students returned for the new school year. As of Monday, at least 295 positive cases have been linked to 18 sororities and fraternities in the 45-chapter system, which is north of the university campus in Seattle. None have been hospitalized.
The University of Washington couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the new restrictions. The school has so far asked the Greek members to isolate in their current residences.
Inslee said the schools can charge students on a sliding scale to offset the costs of housing them during a quarantine, though it’s unclear how it would work for employees who are infected while living on campus as part of their employment.
Inslee said there’s been 35 outbreaks at colleges and universities statewide, totaling more than 800 cases that have been directly attributed to such communal living and social gathering situations.
Last June, a different outbreak infected 154 students in 15 fraternity houses at the same University of Washington campus. There was also a COVID outbreak in late August that was tied to Washington State University in Pullman as students returned for the start of the school year.
Copyright 2020 Associated Press
News reports and social media feeds have been crowded lately with demands by teachers in Seattle and elsewhere around the state and the country to be vaccinated before they step from behind the computer screen and back into the classroom. Vaccine availability is something not even the governor can guarantee, but teachers are in one of the groups in line for vaccination in Washington state after the current groups — health care workers and everyone 65 and older. Continue Reading With Vaccine Questions Looming, Washington Schools Struggle With Reopening
Case numbers have shot up lately in rural America, which skews older and tends to have huge inequality gaps in health care. But there’s still resistance in places such as Bruneau, Idaho, which has a population of 500. Here, there’s also a pervasive sense in the community that kids need to be physically in classrooms for their education and well-being yet stiff opposition to rules intended to slow the spread such as mask-wearing. The school board declined to require masks be worn indoors by students and staff. Continue Reading Rural Idaho District Under Pressure To Stay Open, But School Board Refuses To Mandate Masks
“There really is relatively small additional risk if you have good safety and health protocols,” the governor said Wednesday. “We see it as our task to make sure that when our students go back, when our educators go back that we follow these sound practices of health and safety protocols to keep people safe. When we do that, we now have both that scientific data I’ve just shown you and experience to give us high confidence.” Continue Reading Jay Inslee Urges Washington Schools To Consider Bringing Back More Students