CWU isolates students in Wendall Hill Hall B after coronavirus cluster found

David Snyder

David Snyder, Senior Reporter

Last Monday, Central Washington University teamed up with the Kittitas County Health Department (KCPHD) to test 169 residents and staff for coronavirus at the Wendell Hill residence hall. This came after six residents tested positive over the weekend. 

 After testing the students and staff, the university confirmed eight additional cases.

For much of last week, Wendell Hill Hall building B was on lockdown. Those tested were asked to self-isolate in their rooms while awaiting results. In a newsletter,  Associate Dean for Health and Wellness Shawnte Elbert said this was done “out of an abundance of caution and per Kittitas County Public Health guidelines.”

Those who tested positive will isolate — either in their own living space or, if they had a roommate, in a different room — until cleared by the KCPHD. Those who tested negative no longer have to isolate.

However, Elbert said she doesn’t want students who tested negative to let their guard down.

“For me the biggest thing is knowing when to ask for help, monitoring for symptomatology, and then making sure that [students] don’t change their behavior post test results and actually get COVID,” Elbert said. 


Student residents were ushered in groups down into the Wendell B lounge where they were instructed on how to take their own nasal swab test. Then, they were sent back to their rooms to self-isolate.

Those tested were also provided with health, academic and nutrition planning resources.

Dean of Student Success Gregory Heinselman said this is the first time the school has tested an entire residence hall. They’re calling the process “surveillance testing.”

“We’re doing it more for peace of mind than anything else,” Heinselman said. “This takes one particular living environment and does [testing] to give us a basic idea of the total number of students that could be COVID-positive within that environment.”

Heinselman said the sample size at Wendell B will help the school estimate what the COVID-positive rate is on campus without having to conduct mass testing. The outcome will drive decisions the school makes regarding classes and student housing going forward.


Wendell B resident Andrew Carwin said he went into self-isolation before the school got involved. Some of his friends were a part of the initial cluster of cases, so he assumed he likely contracted the virus.

He tested negative.

Despite still living in a building with active cases, he said he isn’t too worried. He thinks the school did a good job handling the situation.

“[I] know that everyone will get through this, eventually — I don’t know how long it will take — but everyone will get through this,” Carwin said.

Off Campus

Elbert said the cluster at Wendell B is the biggest campus has seen so far. However, she added that students on campus are getting infected less frequently compared to students off campus.

“With us not having a large amount of students on campus get COVID-positive cases, I still think the majority of our efforts have been focusing on our off campus students,” Elbert said.

Elbert said the school’s communication with students emphasizes that they take precautions; These precautions include, physical distancing, avoiding social gatherings, and maintaining safety even within social circles. 

CWU President James Gaudino addressed COVID health guidelines in his State of the University address last Wednesday. He said students cannot get complacent with masking and social distancing, especially off campus.

“Those who aren’t adhering to these common sense behaviors are posing significant danger to our collective health and our ability to continue planned operations,” Gaudino said.