OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee will now require colleges and universities to provide quarantine facilities for all students if they are exposed to COVID-19.
The governor on Tuesday issued more restrictions for higher education campuses as the University of Washington struggles to contain an outbreak among its fraternities and sororities. There have been outbreaks in Whitman County, home of Washington State University, as well.
“We do have fair expectations that students will step up to the plate and take some responsibility for this,” Inslee said.
Also Tuesday, state health officials warned of a “fall surge” in coronavirus infections, noting that western Washington counties are hitting near or above previous peaks in the rate of infections.
The new higher education guidelines now require the colleges to provide isolation and quarantine facilities for Greek system houses, communal off-campus homes, and students and workers who live on campus if they don’t have a place to go.
Colleges without dorms or residential facilities must create a plan on how to address student and staff needs for isolation and quarantine in the event that they are exposed.
The University of Washington has been trying to manage a coronavirus outbreak in recent weeks since students returned for the new school year. As of Monday, at least 295 positive cases have been linked to 18 sororities and fraternities in the 45-chapter system, which is north of the university campus in Seattle. None have been hospitalized.
The University of Washington couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the new restrictions. The school has so far asked the Greek members to isolate in their current residences.
Inslee said the schools can charge students on a sliding scale to offset the costs of housing them during a quarantine, though it’s unclear how it would work for employees who are infected while living on campus as part of their employment.
Inslee said there’s been 35 outbreaks at colleges and universities statewide, totaling more than 800 cases that have been directly attributed to such communal living and social gathering situations.
The following are the main additions to the higher education proclamation:
- Mask at all times except outside dorm or house sleeping room
- No more than two people per sleeping room – no congregate sleeping porches
- Limited visitation to five people outside of the house at one time (must be masked and physically distanced)
- Only one visitor is allowed in a dorm/sleeping room (must be masked and physically distanced)
- Only five people or visitors at one time in one place – no Apple Cup watching with more than five people (must be masked and physically distanced)
- Colleges must provide isolation and quarantine facilities to Greek system houses, off-campus congregate houses, students living in dorms and personnel if they don’t have a place to go
- For institutions without residential facilities, develop a plan with the relevant local health jurisdiction to address the isolation and/or quarantine needs among any of their staff and students who are unable to isolate or quarantine in their usual residence
- All meals must follow current guidance – grab and go or single tables
- Suggestions on public safety enforcement agencies partnerships
Last June, a different outbreak infected 154 students in 15 fraternity houses at the same University of Washington campus. There was also a COVID outbreak in late August that was tied to Washington State University in Pullman as students returned for the start of the school year.
This is a developing story and will be updated. The Associated Press contributed to this story.