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Washington universities report uptick in COVID-19 cases among student body

Many students are returning from spring break travels or activities and bringing the virus with them.

SEATTLE — COVID-19 vaccination efforts are in full swing in Washington – though case numbers aren’t dropping as fast as health experts would like. Now, universities across the state are working to stop a spike among college students.

On the University of Washington’s (UW) campus the promise of spring has been met by the reality that the pandemic isn’t over.

“I think everyone is just tired of being on Zoom all the time, especially this quarter when it’s so sunny all the time,” said Maddie Wong, a junior at the UW.

On Monday, the UW said it was monitoring an "expected" increase in COVID-19 cases among students. The university added that most students live off campus and most positive cases involve travel or off-site activities.

“I know a lot of college students are still partying like they just don’t care at all,” said Jessica Chen, a UW sophomore.

At Western Washington University (WWU) in Bellingham nearly 30 positive COVID-19 cases involving students living in on-campus dormitories have been identified. 

RELATED: Washington universities discourage spring break travel as pandemic continues

Across the state in Pullman, Washington State University (WSU) is urging Cougs to “do better.” In a sternly worded letter sent Friday, school officials called the increase in cases alarming – and banned group gatherings all together.

WSU confirmed Monday it has spent $200,000 in COVID-19 testing for students in connection to two large parties in February.

“The biggest concern is people who are not yet eligible for vaccines, who are gathering in mass and may be leaving their community to do so potentially bringing back variant strains that we’re not even aware of yet,” said Catherine Kroll, director of infection prevention for PeaceHealth, during a Washington State Hospital Association briefing Monday.

The increase in COVID-19 cases is being felt off campus as well. 

In Seattle, there have been 713 positive cases reported over the last two weeks, and 3,117 across King County in that same time frame, according to data from Public Health -- Seattle & King County. Last week, King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin warned about the potential for a "fourth wave." 

In response to the rising case counts, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the Rainier Beach and West Seattle COVID-19 testing sites will stay open for as long as necessary – two sites that were supposed to shut down Tuesday.

“I’ve been staying at home and I’ve been wearing a mask I’ve been doing my duties so why can’t they do their duties as well,” said Monterosa Lee, a college student visiting UW from California.

And as the cherry blossoms continue to bloom across the UW campus, many student’s are left wondering if they’ll be attending classes in person come the fall.

RELATED: Dozens of COVID-19 cases confirmed among Western Washington University students

RELATED: How accurate were UW’s COVID-19 predictions?

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