Greek, congregate housing under new guidance

Guidelines limit number of visitors allowed; all parties required to wear masks, social distance



Recently-introduced housing guidelines mandate that bedrooms should have no more than two people in them at any given time, and communal spaces should have no more than five people.

JENAE LAXSON, Evergreen roots editor

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidelines for Greek and congregate housing at institutions of higher education, limiting the number of people allowed to live in a unit because of COVID-19. The guidance went into effect Oct. 20.

“The governor is concerned about increases in positive cases, particularly in Greek communities,” said Phil Weiler, WSU vice president for marketing and communications.

For both Greek housing and other congregate living areas, the guidelines limit the occupancy of a bedroom to two people, he said. One visitor is allowed per bedroom, and five visitors are allowed outside of a bedroom.

There can be no more than five people and the residents in a communal space in student housing, Weiler said.

The University of Washington and WSU experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases during the fall, he said. These new guidelines resulted from increased transmission of the virus at both schools.

WSU and the governor’s office collaborated on the proclamation to limit the number of people who can live in Greek housing and other congregate living areas, he said.

The state’s main concern is off-campus student housing, said Troy Henderson, director of Whitman County Public Health.

Everyone must wear masks and maintain a 6-foot distance from each other, Weiler said. Furniture must also be moved so people can maintain physical distance.

WSU will continue to provide housing with basic supplies and internet for students exposed to COVID-19, Weiler said. The university will work with Whitman County Public Health to set up hotel accommodations for students who test positive.

Typically there are no outbreaks at residence halls because WSU limits rooms to one student, he said.

There have been 37 cases of COVID-19 in the dorms as of Oct. 23, according to a press release from the Whitman County Emergency Operations Center.

WSU will probably have more in-person classes spring semester, Weiler said. There are about 20 classes that are currently face-to-face, which may increase to 60 classes next semester.

Henderson said the new guidelines depend on COVID-19 cases, and they will be updated as circumstances change.

“I think this proclamation will stand until we get a vaccine that is effective and readily available,” Weiler said. “If something really takes a turn for the worse, there may be stricter restrictions put in place.”

Restrictions have already been placed on sports. The Pac-12 shortened its football season, he said, and there will be no fans in Martin Stadium and no tailgating.

WSU is working with the community to prevent people from tailgating off-campus, such as the Walmart parking lot, he said.

A small number of family members may be allowed to attend the football games in person, Weiler said.

The women’s and men’s basketball teams are practicing. There may be a small number of students allowed to watch the games in person, he said.

Weiler said baseball will have a spring season. It is likely that volleyball and track and field will as well.

Spring graduation is still up in the air. It is difficult to predict if it will be in person, Weiler said.

“I think we would really have to have a vaccine in place,” he said. “We graduate thousands of people in the spring over the course of 48 hours.”