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Regional News

Spokane Universities Hope To Avoid Covid Surge

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Screenshot from Whitworth YouTube video
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Whitman County health officials announced another 41 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. All of them are in the age groups typically associated with college students. That continues the run of Covid-related cases related to the recent return of students at Washington State University’s Pullman campus.

Spokane public health officials hope Spokane’s universities will be able to avoid that kind of outbreak.

Gonzaga’s students are returning to campus, anticipating the beginning of classes next week. Whitworth’s students will be about a week behind. But already, Whitworth President Beck Taylor has released a ‘welcome back’ video for students.

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Credit Whitworth University
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“Greetings, Pirates. In a little less than two weeks, residential education will resume here on the Whitworth campus. I know you will agree with me when I say how thankful we all are for the opportunity to return to the friends and mentors we miss and to resume our educational journeys in person," Taylor said.

The video includes a slide with Beck’s Three Reminders: wash, mask, distance; extend grace and don’t do stupid stuff.

“Young people will be young people. They go to college to learn about life and learning about life during the Covid-19 pandemic, for many, is to experience Covid-19 and that’s what’s happening down there," said Spokane County Health Officer Bob Lutz.

Down there is, of course, WSU in Pullman. Lutz says WSU should be a cautionary tale for Spokane’s universities.

“I and others have been working very closely with Gonzaga and Whitworth over the last month-plus. I believe they have good protocols and practices in place, but you can do all you can in the classroom environment, in the on-campus environment where it’s structured," he said. "It’s what happens in the unstructured environment that you really need to encourage, require people to take the responsibilities, to be responsible for themselves and for others.”

And in case someone tests positive, Lutz says Gonzaga and Whitworth have each set aside dormitories as isolation facilities.