Topic: WWU (38)

WWU Campus is Closed And Should Stay That Way

By On

Any substantial number of the student body at Western Washington University who physically return to campus in the fall will constitute a reverse Spring Break, an infectious phenomenon verified after college students, who were in Florida for that very fest, returned to their home towns or universities, dragging the COVID-19 virus with them. (“College Student Contribution to Local COVID-19 Spread: Evidence from University Spring Break Timing” and “New Study: College Spring Break Helped Spread The Coronavirus”) This seems to be the present plan for WWU in Bellingham: thousands of students arriving from all over the state of Washington, especially from hotspot eastern counties and other states across the land that are now drowning in a pandemic resurgence.

Worse yet, the annual creation of what Bellingham has allowed for decades, illegal rooming houses, each with 5-10 or more young tenants, will constitute hundreds of student congregate living arrangements known for being highly effective vectors for the spread of COVID-19. Our own previous experience with COVID-19-related infection and death in congregate facilities here in Bellingham should be warning enough. Reports now indicate that it is not only the old who are vulnerable but the young (20-45) whose hospitalizations and deaths are alarming officials across the country. Some of those young people, reports a doctor in Arizona, are coming in requiring oxygen, intubation, and ventilators.

“We even had people in that age group die, unfortunately. So it’s very troubling and it’s very difficult to watch young people die from this disease. It’s horrible.”

And meanwhile in California an LA Times article reports:

“Amid the alarming surge in coronavirus spread, USC [University of Southern California] announced it will no longer bring all undergraduates back to campus for the fall semester and will move to mainly online classes, reversing an earlier decision to welcome students back for a hybrid model.”

22 year old COVID-19 patient
22 year old COVID-19 patient

USC is not the only institution of higher education to realize that opening campuses will likely result in unpredictable and possibly catastrophic surges in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Still, a quick look at colleges on the web indicates that many will use some hybrid system of campus and online classes. This mugwumpian* approach is destined to fail because students, even those taking only online courses, will mosey on over to campus to see pals and girl/boyfriends, become forgetful and revert to youthful insouciance. Online or not, thousands of students will still clog the grocery stores and visit group rental homes in town for weekend parties.

Indicative of the above is a report in a 3 July article in the Seattle Times entitled “A COVID-19 outbreak on UW’s Greek Row hints at how hard it may be to open colleges this fall”:

“As of Friday, 117 students living in 15 fraternity houses this summer have reported testing positive for the virus. The university has confirmed 89 of those cases, along with an additional four students who visited fraternities but didn’t live in them. The numbers are likely to tick upward, since about 1,000 have been tested, including other students who visited the fraternities but didn’t live there.”

Granted, WWU does not suffer under the Greek system, but there are many similar, albeit somewhat smaller, congregate living facilities within the city limits. The massive private dormitories off-campus such as Elevate (formerly Gather) and the Lark (formerly NXNW), with about 1,000 students between them, are nothing more than huge petri dishes during normal times let alone a pandemic. Moreover, come Thanksgiving and then winter break, all will race home in packed cars, buses, trains, and airplanes to give their families the gift that keeps on giving: COVID-19. Then a reverse wave will return to Bellingham bringing the virus from hometowns throughout the state, or from whatever far-flung places the students visit or congregate in the sun.

Several weeks ago, I spoke with a WWU university representative who said they really had no idea how many upper class students would return in the fall to campus or to Bellingham. Freshman registration is already down about 12% and the decline is expected to continue, but that still means well over 2,500 new students will arrive to start school in September. How many will come to live in Bellingham? How many will actually be able to find housing on a campus that has room for approximately 4,000 students? Dormitory distancing will likely halve that number and toss many students into the rental market.

It is the City who must tell WWU under what circumstances it will be acceptable to bring any, even a fraction, of their students back into our community. Would there be mandatory testing before readmission? Would there be periodic re-testing on a schedule? What would dorm life look like? How would public transit be managed? Parties? Large crowds? Would there be courtesy in our community stores and restaurants? What leadership would WWU provide so that Bellingham residents will be safe when thousands of students re-enter? And let us not forget the professors who might, at great risk, have to return to campus because their classes require either lab work or a physical presence, such as for a dance class? (“College campuses are trying to reopen in the fall. The main source of opposition? The faculty”. WWU says it will comply with the governor’s Safe Start Washington phased approach. But where is the public dialogue on this issue? That “safe start” thingy doesn’t appear to be working that well.

There should be a one year hiatus at all universities to help break the back of the viral spread. It sounds harsh, but such a break (like millions of young students took during WWII) is necessary and doable. Make no mistake, this is a worldwide war with an enemy that takes no prisoners, makes no allies, signs no treaties. We are bereft of leadership on the national level so our country cannot even join with others in the fight. Consequently, we must struggle against this virus at local levels with every tool we have, including suspension of university campus openings until at least the academic year 2021-2022. WWU should say to the student body: “STAY HOME!”

In the meantime, all states must push for federal legislation that will forgive all student debt, public and private, what is known as a Debt Jubilee. Economist Dr. Michael Hudson says:

“We may see a power grab creating something much like feudalism. In the United States it’s suggested that for student loans, or for loans to wage-earners collateralized by the debtor promising to pay 10%, 20%, 25% of everything they earn for the rest of their life. This is like a tax, but it’s really a form of debt peonage. It’s a payment much like medieval serfs had to turn over their economic surplus to their landlords. Well, now the wage-earners, small business and even big business in America and in Europe are going to have to turn over even more of their earnings to the financial sector in order to survive.”

The Debt Jubilee must be followed by a variation on the national “GI Bill” to provide student education across the board. We have done it before, for soldiers returning from WWII; the GI Bill provided enough for an education and to live minimally, if not with some level of comfort. We can do it again.

Until then, to fight this virus effectively, campuses must be closed completely, and all courses placed on-line until such a time as a vaccination is found or the pandemic runs its course. This is a war and our lives depend on it.

*Mugwump: One who has his mug on one side of an issue and his wump on the other.

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Comments by Readers

Christopher S Hudson

Jul 06, 2020

Thank you for this article. I couldn’t agree more. Also, thanks for putting Michael Hudson front and center, I have read several of his books and recommend them. His ideas are becoming more mainstream as current neoliberal ideology has fallen on it’s face and turns all of us into debt-serfs.

His discussion of the “debt jubilee” is based on his studies of ancient cultures and how their economies were managed… fascinating stuff.



Dick Conoboy

Jul 06, 2020


Related to Michael?  :-)

Furthermore, what are the costs of having students return to Bellingham in the middle of a pandemic?  Costs related to the return of these individuals will be socialize to the city and the county.  Some of those costs would be difficult to calculate but they are, nevertheless, there.  Health department, police, emergency and medical services would face additional burdens.  For decades the city’s residents have born the cost of student housing with the deformation of the rental market by the presence of students that drive up costs and eat up lower cost housing that might be used by working families with moderat incomes.


Brian McNitt

Jul 06, 2020

How many additional deaths, and how much additional COVID spread and impact in Bellingham would be acceptable?


Abe Jacobson

Jul 06, 2020

You put this very clearly. Certainly the frat-boy COVID outbreak at UW erodes our confidence that a mass migration of 14K students back here into congregate living would be a smart move. Apart from prisons or cruise ships, I can think of no more effective a viral spreader.


Dick Conoboy

Jul 06, 2020




Dick Conoboy

Jul 06, 2020


I highly doubt that anywhere near 14,000 would return to campus.  Many courses are going to be given online.  There are professors who have stated that they will not return to campus for a varieyt of reaons most of which, I think, have to do with being at risk themselves or living with a person at risk. 

But even the return of 7,000 would be a monumental error.  We are worried now about getting into Phase 3 of the governors Safe Start program.  With thousands of students returning to town we will likely find ourselves back to pre-Phase 1 status.  This virus will not be managed.  As a bullet pays no mind, nature gives not a shit.


Dick Conoboy

Jul 07, 2020


Thanks.  I had run into similar articles as I prepared my own above.  This was a nice summary of the almost total lack of critical thinking even among academics.  It seems mostly to be about MONEY!


Tim Paxton

Jul 07, 2020

More Covid data is appearing.  If the infection rate may be 10x greater than currently estimated, as is now coming out,  then the death rate amongst the under 45 group then approaches zero.  Students and young staff would possibly be dealing with a fatality risk approaching near zero. 

Most of those who succumb already have morbidities and are over age 70. Like Flu, it mosty affects the sick and elderly, who should probably be more worried than healthy 19 year olds.

A recent article (July 5, 2020)  from the Stanford University disease prevention chairman, an MD.

“The China coronavirus is real but the facts about it have been hidden or contaminated.  For example, a doctor at Stanford reported a couple days ago that the China coronavirus mortality rate for those under the age of 45 is almost 0%.”

Disclosing the updated and actual fatality risk to all age and morbidity groups might be more productive than a mass shut down of the entire University.  Zero per cent sounds pretty good to a college student.  They are immortal anyway.

Adults make decisions based on risk assessment all the time.  Maybe not perfectly, but with the actual low fatality risk for under 45 and new treatments/cures coming out around the world, it would not be a huge risk.



Abe Jacobson

Jul 07, 2020

Then my inference from Tim Paxton’s point is that there needs to be an ironclad mechanism to prevent contact of these college immortals with the older population. Yes, the immortals have very low risk to themselves, but they do also come into contact with older people in the community, like in retail and services, not to mention buses etc.

How is this sequestering of the immortals to be done?


Dick Conoboy

Jul 07, 2020

David A. Swanson

Jul 09, 2020

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bellingham?


Ryan M. Ferris

Jul 13, 2020

You can get provisional death counts for WA state with graphs and tables(click on graph for table) from They are provisional because (among other statistical reasons) there is always a delay in CDC reception of death certificates. The screenshot picture attached is age ranges sorted by gender for (top) All Deaths WA 2020 to date and (bottom) Covid-19 deaths WA 2020 to date (e.g. through July 4, 2020). Note that (at a minimum) no male has died of Covid-19 in WA state under age 35. No female has died under age 45:


Dick Conoboy

Jul 13, 2020


Thanks for the link, however, my question to you is what you think this means in terms of my call for WWU to remain closed?


Ryan M. Ferris

Jul 13, 2020

SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) is a an “emergent disease of aging” [1]  We shouldn’t inflict the futility of our aging immune systems upon the prosperity of the future of youth.  To quote Rutger Hauer (who managed to die at age 75 last summer before the world turned to sh*t) : “Time to die”:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”




Dick Conoboy

Jul 14, 2020


Your referenced medical article was published in April, back when the US only had about 60,000 deaths.  Since then and especially with the resurgence of the virus in the southern states  the virus is now hitting the 20-45 age group especially hard.  They are by and large an ignorant and insouciant group of vectors.  More here.

And this:

The CDC’s latest data shows that in the last week alone, this demographic is experiencing high hospitalizations.

  • 37.7% were between ages 18 and 49
  • 28.1% were between ages 50 and 64
  • 34.1% were between ages 65 and up

Worse, adults under the age of 65 made up roughly half of the patients in intensive care units, according to the CDC.


Dick Conoboy

Jul 14, 2020

And this…

Why are 1 in 3 young adults at risk of severe COVID-19? One habit might be to blame:

“The UCSF researchers studied the most recent data from the National Health Interview Survey of 8,405 men and women between the ages of 18 and 25, according to the paper. The data was collected between 2016 and 2018. Overall, one in three, or about 32%, of young adults are “medically vulnerable” to severe COVID-19, the study showed.” 




Tim Paxton

Jul 15, 2020

Wasn’t Rutger actually an Albino with low melatonin and vitamin D levels? It is always hard to tell with them cinematical replicants.

Students appear to be doing OK in some first world countries that didn’t lock down such as Sweden and Belarus.  

But that doesn’t negate the unknown Covid effects in anyone which may be permanent such  as clots, lung damage, etc.  

We still also still don’t know what the exact virus transmission vector is other than that random mandatory Masks don’t work. If they did, they would already be patented and given OSHA and/or FDA medical approvals. 

Maybe halting the fecal / poopy hands transmission route is the actual route to focus upon?  Abundant public and store placed hand washing stations with soap and hot water along with a rennaisance of Bidets across the fruited plain might slash  SARS-CoV-2 transmission?

Also, there is little focus on immunity building amongst the population. Perhaps adding supplements such as Vitamin C and D3 in Freshman dorms may actually help harden the system from infections?  Perhaps lack of selenium in the food is a problem.  

Sorry to hear Rutger Hauer passed.  His Blade Runner “tears in rain” performance was a classic.



Ryan M. Ferris

Jul 15, 2020


Hahahaha… Yes there is little discussion of how individuals can enhance their own immunity. Despite this Vit C,  Vit D, room air cleaners, UVGI HVAC devices sales are reputedly through the roof. So is home exercise equipment. One doctor talking about Vit D is Rhonda Patrick:

Another nursing professor and a right proper ironic English gent also talking about this is John Campbell:

Dr. Campbell asks you to send in pictures of yourself in your mask and with your bottle of Vit D. Avowedly mystified by America culture and politics, the good doctor makes incredibly prescient comments sometimes as he does here when he asks why the US Government doesn’t distribute Vit D free to African Americans:

I take 5K IU Vit D each day. Occassionally 10K IU but sustained daily at that dose sleep is effected.




Dick Conoboy

Jul 15, 2020


The simple act of asking questions about possible treatments or mode of transmission are disengenuous. Please, direct us to the peer reviewed studies that back up these quasi-contentions about vitamins or poop.


Dick Conoboy

Jul 15, 2020


Just to clear up a point, Patrick is not an MD.  She does have a PhD in microbiology not medicine.  Going to her website I find calls to join her site with proper donations or fees.  She seems to spend most of her time on talks,videos, podcasts and selling various vitamin like products.  She would not be my go-to person for fitness or medical advice.

Campbell may be a competent nurse so I watched a couple of his videos, the first of which was on hand washing and during which he goes to wash his “dirty” hands by first turning on the water with one of them thus contaminating the handle.  He never returns to or mentions that contamination again so presumably his wife and or kids will come in and turn on the water with the contaminated handled.  Another video talks to the issue of hospitalization and mortality among black COVID patients and starts by Campbell looking at retrospective studies after telling the audience that one has to go to the “primary sources” before talking.  These retrospective studies are extremely limited in scope and are not randomized trials leading to peer reviewed papers.  They may show correlations that could suggest further studies but they don’t prove bupkis.  So you can send in your pic with the vitamin D bottle but no immunity from COVID will likely be forthcoming. 

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