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WSU students caught partying to face more consequences

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It has been several weeks since Pullman police began ticketing Washington State University (WSU) students for hosting large parties during the ongoing pandemic. Now, students face added penalties as local authorities look to discourage these gatherings.

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In the time since they began actively breaking up large gatherings, Pullman officers have stopped 20 parties and issued 22 citations, and Police Chief Gary Jenkins says the number of parties appear to be dwindling by the day.

“We think we’re having an impact with this so we’re hoping to see COVID-19 numbers start going down,” he said.

Whitman County was recently named one of the nation’s coronavirus “hotspots” after health officials say college parties led to a drastic spike in COVID-19 cases. That spike has almost entirely been among college-aged individuals, and as of Monday, Pullman, Wash., now has the second highest rate of new cases of any city in the United States over the last two weeks.

To mitigate that, the city passed an ordinance fining students $250 for hosting an illegal gathering in early September. On Tuesday, Pullman City Council expanded that to now include fines for anyone at a party, not just the host.

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This came in the wake of WSU students getting around fines for party hosts by sending them money.

“When we show up and we cite the host, they start getting on their cell phones and start sending money to the host on Venmo to help pay for the fine,” Chief Jenkins explained.

Gov. Jay Inslee addressed similar concerns for other campuses in Washington state as students move back for the fall semester.

“We cannot allow that to happen in other colleges, in other cities. It’s just too dangerous to have those similar spikes,” the governor said. “The socialization that’s taking place in apartments and dorms is killing us.”

Written by KIRO 7 TV reporter Jessica Oh; MyNorthwest staff contributed to this report.

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