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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Breaking: Parties still to blame as Western COVID surge reaches 67 cases

34 students who tested positive reside on campus, have since moved to family residences, isolation spaces

A germ sits underneath a bunch of party balloons and banners
A recent surge in COVID-19 cases amongst Western students has been linked to parties. As of April 1, there are 67 confirmed positive cases. Image shows a representation of the COVID-19 virus at a party. // Image created by Nate Sanford.

By Clay Wren

Sixty-seven positive cases, including both on-campus and off-campus students, have been linked to an ongoing COVID-19 surge among Western students, according to a Western Alert sent out Thursday, April 1.

The cases have been connected to multiple exposures from parties and smaller gatherings such as birthday parties on the weeks of March 8 and March 15.

Of the 34 students residing on-campus who have tested positive, many have relocated to family residences. The remainder have moved to Western’s quarantine and isolation spaces, per the Western alert.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after Western announced that the Health Department had traced approximately five to seven student cases to parties and other indoor gatherings. 

The Western alert encouraged students to fight “pandemic fatigue” as people relax their COVID-19 restrictions while vaccinations roll out, and to continue wearing face masks, washing hands, social distancing and limiting gatherings.

Western is currently testing students at Fraser Hall, Monday through Thursday by appointment only. No walk-ins are accepted, and space is limited. The school has performed 1,089 tests as of the second week of the quarter, four of which were positive. Tests conducted by the health department, which account for a majority of the recent surge, are not listed on Western’s COVID dashboard. 

Are you a Western student who has hosted or attended parties during the pandemic? We’d love to hear your thoughts on what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. If you’re a student in Bellingham who has recently caught COVID-19, we’d also be interested in hearing your perspective. We take privacy seriously and won’t publish your name without explicit permission from you. You can get in touch by emailing  eic.westernfront@gmail.com or by DMing us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

The University of Washington and Washington State University have also seen rises in positive cases related to partying recently, with UW reporting the fourth outbreak in a Greek community on Monday, and WSU reporting 196 positive cases between March 16-29. WSU threatened disciplinary action if students were caught partying.

On March 28, Paul Cocke, a spokesperson for Western, told The Front that the school was taking a non-punitive approach to students who attend or host parties and would, “continue to assess the situation as it evolves and determine if disciplinary action is needed.” Cocke was unable to be reached for comment by time of publication following Thursday’s alert.    

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