WSU holds town hall addressing new COVID-19 plan

PULLMAN, Wash. — During the past semester, Washington State University has seen its share of challenges with COVID-19.

School officials went as far as eliminating the week of spring break to curb the spread. On Wednesday school officials has a clear message to students about Thanksgiving break and the remainder of the Fall 2020 semester.

“If you are traveling home, please get tested for the virus before you go,” said WSU President, Kirk Schultz. “Once you leave campus for Thanksgiving break, we are asking you not to return until the Spring semester starts in January. This is going to be really important.”

While there has been 79 new cases on the Pullman campus during the past two weeks, the university has seen a large improvement over time. At the beginning of the fall semester there was around a 20-percent positivity rate,  a number which has now dropped to around 5-percent.

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“We’ve got staff members and other vice presidents and other key individuals that have been working all semester at not controlling the virus — because no one’s going to control the virus — but certainly making sure that we’re keeping our community safe,” Schultz added.

The plan for the spring semester is to test every student who comes into Whitman County, helping limit the spread of COVID-19. This plan has four components, the first: arrival testing.

“There are a variety of category of students who will be participating in this. The first category is any student who’s living at WSU,” said Colleen Kerr, VP of External Affairs and Government Relations.

This will also include student employees, student athletes and those who will be using on-campus facilities throughout the semester.

Other components include diagnostic testing for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, as well as voluntary screen testing and targeted screen testing.

“Our testing plan right now, that we have had approved by the Board of Regents and we are working to operationalize, is actually for the Pullman campus and the Spokane campus,” Kerr explained. “We will have arrival testing for our Spokane students and for our faculty and we will also have ongoing voluntary screening for our Spokane campus.”

There have been 158 new cases of coronavirus during the past two weeks in Whitman County outside the WSU campus.

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