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‘A little less Animal House’: Inslee urges college students to avoid ‘deadly’ parties as Whitman County cases soar

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 8, 2020

This photo from June shows Gov. Jay Inslee in Spokane. A Chelan waterpark has given up its legal fight to remain open but blames Inslee and state officials for forcing it to close.  (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)
This photo from June shows Gov. Jay Inslee in Spokane. A Chelan waterpark has given up its legal fight to remain open but blames Inslee and state officials for forcing it to close. (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Washington’s COVID-19 response is working as numbers remain low in most of the state, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday – but as schools reopen and college students move onto campus, health officials worry what the fall might bring.

In fact, cooperation from young people is essential to keep the state’s numbers down, Inslee said in a Tuesday news conference.

“We need to have a little bit more safety and a little less Animal House,” the governor said, referencing the 1978 college comedy.

Inslee’s plea comes as infections in Whitman County continue to climb, with 138 new cases reported during the holiday weekend, not including Friday. The county now has 844 total cases, Whitman County Public Health reported.

Those numbers started to soar when students at Washington State University moved back to campus, despite the school’s online model. Before Aug. 20, there were only 138 cases in the county. A week ago, there were 618.

Parties and gatherings with more than 10 people have led to the outbreaks, health experts said, and Pullman police officers have even started issuing citations for students who host parties.

Inslee called socializing in large groups “deadly” right now.

“We need leadership from college students,” he said.

Gonzaga University, on the other hand, has eight current and active COVID-19 cases connected to students living on and off campus.

Here’s the latest on other local COVID caseloads:

Spokane County didn’t see much of a spike in COVID-19 cases this weekend, according to data from the Spokane Regional Health District. The district reported 129 new cases over Labor Day weekend, bringing the county’s total to 5,652 confirmed infections.

The daily rates are similar to what the county has been seeing the past month. The district reported 36 new cases on Saturday, 37 Sunday, 41 Monday and 15 new cases Tuesday.

Meanwhile, two more people died in the county from the virus, according to the health district. Total deaths are now at 138.

Currently, there are 35 patients hospitalized with the virus in the district, and 26 of them are county residents. Some 81% of total confirmed patients have recovered, according to the health district.

Across the border, the Panhandle Health District reported 46 new cases of the virus in North Idaho since Friday. The district – which covers Kootenai, Bonner, Boundary, Benewah and Shoshone counties – currently has 10 people hospitalized with the virus.

One more person there died from COVID-19 this weekend, bringing the district’s total to 50 deaths.

Most cases remain in Kootenai county, which has 235 of the district’s 343 active cases.

Laurel Demkovich'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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