OPINION: Participating in 10-day challenge will help WSU make recovery

10-day challenge has potential to lower student COVID transmission rates



As of Tuesday, the county has confirmed a total of 1,551 COVID-19 cases, according to the Whitman County Public Health website. Age groups 1-19 and 20-39 years make up 1,221 cases. It is unknown how many of those individuals are WSU students and how many are non-students.


Coming into the spring semester, WSU has asked students to participate in arrival testing and the 10-day challenge. After seeing students fail to social distance at the start of fall semester, I am hopeful that our student community will do a better job adhering to the guidelines as a whole. 

I know many students are probably ready for things to return to normal. While I couldn’t care less about online versus in-person classes, I am excited for the time when students can go out in groups and enjoy what Pullman has to offer. Many of the local businesses here are fantastic, and to my understanding, they are doing their best to cope with the new situation, but it would be easier without social distancing. 

Guy Palmer, Regents professor of pathology and infectious diseases, said the 10-day challenge is 10 days because it covers the period that someone is most likely to bring in and spread the COVID-19 virus.

Palmer said by testing upon arrival and having people stay within the pods they develop (groups of five or less, roommates included) will help to limit transmission. 

Following the 10-day challenge will help stop us from seeing super spreaders. Think of Typhoid Mary, who worked as a cook in New York and spread Typhoid Fever to many people without meaning to, because she was asymptomatic. 

The challenge also helps us to start on the right track for the rest of the semester.

“If we can, from the moment individuals come back to the Pullman campus, begin to engage in certain behaviors that we know mitigate transmission of the virus, they are also more likely to carry those on during the semester,” Palmer said.

Palmer said the pods are based on two things: Governor Inslee’s recommendations for Washington and evidence that has shown a group of five people is a good number for containing transmission. Palmer said size restrictions matter much less at around fifteen people, and five is practical to ask since it is a small enough number to make an impact while still being doable. 

I think Palmer was right to say spending time around one other person is too restrictive because roommates count. I have two roommates and would be unable to do that by default. 

“So far, our numbers have been really encouraging,” Palmer said.

The arrival testing is in the early stages at the moment and while it is required for students living on campus or using campus facilities, it is strongly encouraged for everyone to get tested, he said. 

Palmer said they can see the general areas where students are getting tested. In the event where there aren’t many people getting tested, they will try to work in that area to encourage more residents in that spot to get tested. This mapping method does not track down to the individual, so there is no need to be concerned about privacy. 

Colin Lang, junior management information systems major, said he was unclear on the details of the challenge based on the email sent out to students prior to the semester. Lang said fall semester had a stronger atmosphere and environment for partying than spring semester. Because he is uncertain how many people are coming back to Pullman, he doesn’t know what to expect.

“If enough people don’t come to WSU, don’t come to Pullman, then I could see it working,” Lang said.

Lang said he hopes vaccines will be available to the student population soon, or there will be more preparation for students to return next fall.

He doesn’t think we will go back to the number of cases we previously had. 

Lang said he thinks WSU administration could have done a slightly better job explaining the challenge in the email, but the incentive of winning a prize for making healthy choices is great for students. 

“If you know you aren’t going to go out and do anything, then I could see a lot of people not participating in this because they have to go and potentially expose themselves to participate in arrival testing,” Lang said. “Personally, I didn’t go anywhere. I can’t do arrival testing if I never left, right? So, do I still go and take the test anyway?”

His perspective makes sense, but I think getting the testing done is a good idea. The risk of going to get groceries is probably higher than the risk someone would face by going to get tested. Still, for those who never left or for those who have already been back and self-contained for two weeks or more like my roommates and me, it would make sense if we chose not to partake. The three of us in my apartment leave solely for groceries. It is to the point where even stepping on campus seems strange to me. 

“I think there is going to be a number of students who do it purely because they’re forced to,” Lang said, citing the email’s information about who is required to get the testing done.

Based on just those who are obligated to get tested, Lang said he thinks the arrival testing will see success, but he is uncertain about the overall success of the challenge. 

Lang said he is concerned about students being able to coordinate with roommates when it comes to pods and social distancing because of his past experience of living on campus. He had no say or influence on what his roommate did. 

If household units can communicate clearly about social distancing and precautions, forming their pods as discussed in the email, and most students get tested, I think Pullman may be able to start returning to normal. If we fail to try, we absolutely will fail to succeed.