While schools around the country continue to weigh the risk of broader coronavirus infections if they reopen this fall, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared this week that teachers are considered “essential workers,” in hopes of pushing school districts toward in-person instruction. Here’s what that label means for teachers.
In the higher education world, U.S. colleges — including Syracuse University, Purdue University and Virginia Tech — are cracking down on students flooding back onto campus and suspending those who violate social distancing and mask rules.
Throughout Saturday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Friday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Pullman sees ‘substantial increase’ in cases linked to WSU’s Greek Row
Health officials have noticed a “substantial increase” in coronavirus cases among Washington State University students living off campus in Pullman, according to university officials.
On Sunday, Whitman County Public Health announced 30 new COVID-19 cases, all among people between the ages of 20 to 39, one of whom lived in a house on Greek Row. The majority of the other cases were also among WSU students, and many were traced back to gatherings at privately-owned Greek Row houses, said university spokesman Phil Weiler.
WSU decided in July to hold classes virtually, but some students have returned to Pullman, primarily to live off-campus. Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said officers have responded to a dozen complaints about parties violating health directives in the College Hill area in the past two weeks, including one that had more than 50 attendees. Jenkins expects the problem to worsen as more students return.
“We are very displeased and disappointed that students were not following the state guidelines to stay safe and healthy,” Weiler said.
The university warned that students who did not follow the rules could be subject to law enforcement action and university disciplinary proceedings. Jenkins announced this week that his department would enforce health measures.
“We would be negligent by allowing these parties to continue,” he said in a statement. “With respect to enforcement, we will consider the circumstances of each situation. Continually educating and warning the same individuals will not be effective to achieve compliance.”
Officers will not patrol looking for individual violations, and Jenkins said he “would be very surprised” if anyone were cited for not wearing a mask, as officers will provide ample education opportunities. The department’s focus is on parties and gatherings, he said.
At the University of Washington, more than 150 students tested positive in connection to an outbreak on Greek Row this summer.
Students demand tuition cuts as colleges go virtual
As more universities abandon plans to reopen and decide instead to keep classes online this fall, it’s leading to conflict between students who say they deserve tuition discounts and college leaders who insist remote learning is worth the full cost.
In petitions started at dozens of universities, students arguing for reduced tuition say online classes fail to deliver the same experience they get on campus. Video lectures are stilted and awkward, they say, and there’s little personal connection with professors or classmates.
Many schools, however, respond that they have improved online classes since the spring. Some have instituted decreases of 10% or more, but many are holding firm on price.
In Washington state, four of the five public universities and one college, The Evergreen State College, are planning to teach remotely this fall. Some students circulated petitions in the spring, including one calling on the University of Washington to issue partial tuition refunds that was signed by more than 15,000 people.
Read the full story here.
—The Associated Press and Seattle Times staff
Pandemic complicates response to wildfires, extreme weather in U.S.
Tens of thousands of people are trying to escape wildfires and extreme heat in the United States at a time when they are also asked to wear masks and keep a distance from strangers.
Climate change is driving extreme weather across the country. Eighty million U.S. residents are under excessive heat advisories. More than 35 wildfires are raging in California, burning 125,000 acres in the San Francisco Bay Area alone and threatening 25,000 businesses and homes this week.
Conditions are made even more perilous by the worst pandemic in a century. As a hurricane season turbocharged by heat gets underway, the virus promises to complicate responses.
Read the full story here.
—The Washington Post
Catch up on the past 24 hours
A coronavirus outbreak at a Bremerton hospital has affected multiple units, and more than 30 employees and patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Staff at St. Michael Medical Center had previously criticized the hospital’s parent company, claiming it did not provide adequate personal protective equipment.
The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color has become more clear as the death toll has climbed. People of color make up more than half of the nation’s “excess deaths” during the pandemic, according to one analysis.
Street art in Seattle has boomed during the pandemic and protests, as blank plywood facades were plentiful and protesters expressed their hopes, dreams and rage. Even a Seattle police detective said he was impressed by the graffiti in the former Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has been connected to COVID-19 cases, and health officials expect the number to grow. At least 15 Minnesotans who attended the South Dakota rally have been diagnosed, with cases also reported in other states.
The culinary equivalent of the Oscars is putting awards on a hold until 2022, as the pandemic continues to challenge the restaurant industry. Multiple Seattle restaurateurs were named finalists for the James Beard Awards.
As COVID-19 has spread, so has misinformation. Here’s a roundup of some prominent coronavirus myths and what the research actually shows.
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Seattle Times staff & news services