CWU cancels events due to unhealthy air quality


Casey Rothgeb

The air quality in Ellensburg has been unsafe at various times during the last several weeks causing the cancellation of events and classes.

Abigail Duchow, Scene Editor

Wildfires have been raging over the west coast for weeks now, and due to the poor air quality caused by them, several on-campus events have had to be canceled. 

Assistant Director of Campus Activities Robbi Goninan said campus activities had to cancel two Monday Movie Madness events, two club fairs, a Geek Out Game Out (GOGO) event and a drive-in movie event. 

She said the club fair on Friday, Sept. 25 is still happening and the drive-in showing of “Jurassic Park” was rescheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26.

Goninan said for Monday Movie Madness Campus Activities staff provided a virtual option via Netflix Party, and for GOGO they provided a virtual option via the online game “Jackbox.”

“With all the [COVID-19] restrictions we had to rethink our events logistically and then the smoke added another layer of difficulty in programming events and activities,” Goninan said.

Campus Activities will be offering a virtual option and an in-person option for most of its events fall quarter. Goninan said extra precautions such as masking, physical distancing, extra cleaning measures and contact tracing will be made during events.

“We’ve worked really close with the Office of Student Engagement, Dean of Student Success and the Kittitas County Health Department to ensure students are safe while attending our in-person events,” Goninan said.

Robert Cepeda, CWU’s emergency management coordinator, said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has assigned a specific color to each Air Quality Index (AQI) category (see chart below) to make it easier to understand whether air pollution is reaching unhealthy levels in communities.

“We look at all of the ratings, but we choose to use the very unhealthy as it affects the entire population on campus when we close buildings,” Cepeda said. “When it comes to outdoor activities, we use the red section because most of our outdoor activities are slightly strenuous, [for] example physical activities, and we tend to have a more diverse population at them.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those at greatest risk from wildfire smoke are people who have lung or heart diseases, older adults and children. The CDC recommends checking local air quality reports, keeping indoor air as clean as possible using air filters or air conditioners and evacuating from the areas wildfires are near as some steps to prevent harm from wildfire smoke. 

According to the CDC, cloth, paper or dust masks do not protect people from smoke. Respirators are the recommended way to decrease and prevent lung damage and other side effects from wildfire smoke.