Health officials warn COVID-19 cases rising significantly near WSU Pullman's Greek Row

Fall semester at Washington State University in Pullman begins Monday even though classes will be held online due to the pandemic.

Just announced this weekend, health officials in Whitman County recorded a substantial increase in new Covid-19 cases among students returning to the area.

It’s yet another nerve-wracking development as we all try to return to life as normal as possible.

“I’ve literally had this planned forever,” said Lila Gill, an 18-year-old WSU freshman beginning her college career via laptop.

“Emotionally and psychologically, we’ve been on a tremendous rollercoaster,” said Lila’s mother Marie.

University administrators were doing their best to keep students and staff safe with remote learning, said Marie, but she recognizes officials can only do so much.

“The challenge is when those kids step into their dorms, they are social creatures,” she said.

This year’s convocation was held online and the very same week said new infections among students between 18-24-years-old had been mostly traced to off-campus gatherings near Greek row.

That’s near where returning senior Bailey McCoy lives.

“It’s definitely a temptation to be social and do the normal Pullman things,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you should.”

Undergrad Abbey Rose says she can see campus from her apartment but returning for in-person instruction seems a world away.

“(I’ve) seen different houses having parties up and down the street,” said Rose.

The university told students who are caught violating state mandates could face disciplinary hearings and local police warn of  face steeps fines or jail time.

County health officials say the current risk of viral spread is at its highest level. The risk now posed to the local community is a concern shared by many students returning to Pullman.

“Pullman was in Phase 3 before everyone starting coming,” said senior Sydney Harrell. “There’s concern of it spreading even more now.”

Administrators from the university said employees are being as contract tracers in conjunction with the county health department in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.