More than 100 off-campus EWU students test positive for COVID-19

CHENEY, Wash. — More Eastern Washington University students are testing positive for COVID-19. While some are coming from students living on-campus, most COVID-19 cases are coming from those living in off-campus housing.

Since September, 158 Eastern Washington University students have tested positive for COVID-19. Of that group of 158, 109 of them live off-campus.

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With such a large outbreak in a small time frame, the university knew it had to do something to cut down on the growth, so it reached out to the school’s Master of Public Health students.

“The students get the assignment and then marketing and communications will take their work and polish it up and rebrand it, if necessary. Also, the university will tell us what messages we need to focus on, so we can help them with their messaging,” said David Lines, director of the Master of Public Health program at Eastern Washington University.

Students are making TikTok videos and other social media content, so the education is coming from a peer-to-peer perspective.

“It is really exciting because we are creating knowledge, sharing knowledge. It is more of a forum, as opposed to a classroom,” Lines said.

It’s a unique experience considering their schoolwork is making an impact beyond the classroom.

“Well, it’s definitely a – hang on, make sure your seat belt is on. Students are out in the field where they are getting a lot of information. They, in ways, are experts on the pandemic,” Lines said.

Eastern  Washington University is also teaming up with campus police to help educate students on the consequences of not wearing a face mask or social distancing.

“How do we want to approach this? We understand that there are no absolutes, there is no template for what we’re doing now. New hat for us, so we just took a more proactive approach recognizing that it was very important for us to partner with our students, instead of mandating to them,” said Chief Jewell Day, Eastern Washington University Police Department.

While other police departments in other college towns, like Pullman, have decided to cite people who are not following social distancing rules, EWU Police is taking a different approach. They are choosing to educate instead of cite people.

“We go to them explaining what’s going on and we need you to break the party up and here is why,” Chief Day said.

Chief Day said he only wants his team talking with students, not at them. He said that relationship is much more valuable and effective than writing a ticket.

“The majority of kids that we are dealing with are freshman that are coming in and they come to college looking for that college experience. We just try to get them to understand that those days will come, but for right now, there are certain things that we have to do to make sure we get to that point,” Chief Day said.

You can find the EWU Covid-19 Dashboard HERE.

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