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Governor warns college students spreading the virus: ‘There will be consequences’

Oct. 8, 2020 Updated Thu., Oct. 8, 2020 at 7:35 p.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday again made a plea to college students : change or be ready for consequences.

“We are so concerned about the fraternities’ and sororities’ behavior that’s exposing us to great risk,” Inslee said. “This has to change.”

Massive outbreaks of COVID-19 first at Washington State University in Pullman and now at the University of Washington prompted the governor to ask that campuses have more rigorous supervision over the Greek systems.

The University of Washington has reported 83 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week. As of Thursday, 215 UW students in 15 fraternities and sororities have tested positive.

The outbreak in Pullman, which began with some college students returning to the area and throwing large parties, has slowed, although it has now spread throughout the community.

As of Thursday, there have been 1,458 cases in Whitman County. There are three people hospitalized with the virus and on Tuesday, a woman between the ages of 60 and 79 died due to COVID-19, the first death in the county.

The virus has spread beyond the WSU community, as well. There are outbreaks in WSU Greek Housing, which has 107 cases, and the WSU dorms, which have 22 cases. There are also six long-term care facilities in Whitman County with outbreaks, as well as one school.

COVID-19 activity statewide is on the rise again, and the governor said outbreaks at fraternities and sororities are contributing to that uptick. The governor warned of the potential for further action on his part in the coming days if behavior does not change in those settings.

“There will be consequences if we don’t get that leadership,” Inslee said.

The most recent state report shows 10 outbreaks on college and university campuses in the last week.

Beyond college settings, outbreaks are occurring in virtually every setting possible, State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy told reporters Thursday.

“Disease activity continues to be widespread in communities where it’s spreading,” Lofy said.

Statewide, there were also outbreaks in the last week in child care facilities, restaurants and construction sites, as well as in correctional facilities and K-12 schools. Lofy said health officials continue to connect outbreaks to large gatherings, too.

“We’re hearing about continued social events, so this is a good time to remind everyone to wear a mask and keep distance,” she said.

Here’s a look at local numbers:

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 138 new cases on Thursday. There are 37 patients being treated in Spokane hospitals for the virus, and 35 of them are county residents. No additional deaths were reported, and now an estimated 73% of the county’s 7,861 total cases are considered recovered.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 52 new cases on Thursday, and there are 18 residents from the five-county region in the hospital receiving treatment for the virus. No additional deaths were reported.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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