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COVID-19 outbreaks among college students continue in Eastern Washington

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 12, 2020

COVID-19 continues to course through college campuses in Eastern Washington, despite some universities only offering virtual classes.

Since Sept. 27, Eastern Washington University has confirmed 53 new cases, primarily in students living in campus housing in Cheney.

Washington State University students in Pullman also continue to test positive for the virus.

Whitman County confirmed 55 new cases of the virus the past three days , the majority of which are in young college-aged adults. The outbreak in Pullman is not reserved to outbreaks in dorms and Greek housing, however.

Whitman County Public Health confirmed the second death in a woman over the age of 60 due to the virus on Monday. Nine long-term care facilities in Whitman County now have COVID-19 cases, accounting for 53 cases to date.

In Spokane County, university students also are testing positive for the virus, albeit in smaller numbers. At Gonzaga University, there are 21 active cases of the virus. Most are students . At Whitworth University, there are 11 people with active cases of COVID-19.

The Spokane Regional Health District did not update case counts on Monday, due to the Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which is a holiday for district workers.

Outbreaks continue in various settings throughout the county, and Kelli Hawkins, public information officer for the district, said gatherings at people’s homes continue to be connected to transmission.

“We’re still seeing the same thing: outbreaks everywhere in different places,” Hawkins said.

Last week, the Washington Department of Health released its most updated outbreak report, which shows that colleges and universities accounted for 10 outbreaks in the most recent week of data.

There were six outbreaks traced to restaurants and five outbreaks traced to retail statewide in the most recent week.

The Northeast Tri-County Health District reported 30 new cases over the weekend, including 22 new cases in Pend Oreille County. County health officials are concerned about the virus transmission in Pend Oreille County, noting in a news release that it could affect students returning to school in-person as well as strain the local medical system.

In the three-county region of the Tri-County Health District, 44% of the infections are acquired through social gatherings, according to district data.

Spokane, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Lincoln, Whitman and Adams counties all have higher incidence rates than 75 cases per 100,000 residents, according to state data.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story 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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