The head women’s basketball coach at Washington State University was forced to apologize after a ‘mini block party’ with more than two dozen people was held in her driveway in late August.
Kamie Ethridge claimed she did not host the party, which had around 25 people gathered without masks or social distancing, as the local area experiences a massive spike in coronavirus cases.
The college town of Pullman, Washington, currently has the highest per capita infection rates in the country, with the National Guard recently called in to help with testing.
Kamie Ethridge claimed she did not host the party, which had around 25 people gathered without masks or social distancing, but admitted responsibility as it was on her property
Pullman Police Department Operations Commander Jake Opgenorth told the Daily Beast that officers were called to Ethridge’s home on August 28 after receiving reports of ‘approx 20-30 people at this location and not practicing social distancing’.
Ethridge was issued with a citation under the city’s nuisance party ordinance just a week after authorities warned they would be cracking down on large groups, masks and social distancing.
The coach, a former Olympic gold medal winner, was also hit with a $150 fine.
In a statement, Ethridge denied hosting the event but accepted responsibility as it took place on her property.
‘I would like to apologize for the violation of our local social distancing guidelines,’ she said.
‘There was a gathering held on my driveway, of which I did not host. But as the guidelines state, the owner of the property is responsible for maintaining proper social distancing and mask wearing for all that are in attendance. As this did occur on my property, I take full responsibility.
‘I appreciate the hard work being done by our Whitman County Health officials to keep our community as safe as possible during this pandemic,’ she added.
‘As a role model in our community, I will work to set a better example.’
In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee’s order currently has a cap on gatherings at ten people, which Pullman also implements.
Yet the city has a list of residents breaking the rules with police responding to reports of at least five other public safety violations on the same day as Ethridge’s party.
One of these reports included a gathering of between 15 and 20 people not wearing masks.
The local police made the decision to begin a stricter crackdown on the gathering rules after cases began to rise in late August.
‘Eventually we were just seeing our COVID cases rise and we made the decision that we’ve educated and warned enough,’ officer Opgenorth said.
‘Everyone knows what the rules are.’
Washington State University is holding most of its classes online but the return of students to campus on August 24 has still resulted in a concerning rise in coronavirus cases in the county
‘Right now, our focus really is on the party issue,’ said Police Chief Brian Jenkins at an August 19 press conference.
‘That’s where we believe there’s going to be the greatest amount of potential exposure and impact.’
Students have been those most likely to receive a citation for public safety violations and all but two of the 18 issued so far have been in the neighborhood next to campus, according to Whitman County Watch.
One of those not in College Hill next to campus was Ethridge’s party.
Opgenorth estimates that students received up to 90 percent of the citations and Pullman police had reported to 90 calls or complaints about suspected violations by the end of August.
Pullman is located in Whitman County were there is currently a 16 percent positive test rate for coronavirus.
There have been 844 cases in the county as of Tuesday but no deaths. The county only has a population of 50,000 people.
Cases in the area began to rise as students returned to college although the majority of WSU classes are being taught online.
The cases have ballooned from just 142 less than a month ago.
Between the first day of classes at WSU on August 24 and September 1, there were 350 new cases reported in Whitman County, according to KXLY.
At that time, Troy Henderson, the director of Whitman County Public Health, said more than 90 percent of people testing positive were between the ages of 18 and 25.
They were not all students at WSU.
‘But the vast majority would be associated with the university,’ Henderson said.
After Labor Day, the National Guard moved to help expand testing on campus as more students tested positive.
Pullman only reported 15 new cases between Monday and Tuesday but authorities warned there was no reason to believe the outbreak was under control.
New daily cases hit a record high of 67 Sunday before dropping to six on Monday and nine on Tuesday.
Henderson believes the lowers case numbers were linked to delays in reporting lab results.
‘We anticipate higher numbers,’ Henderson said. ‘We should probably start seeing that Thursday or Friday, although that depends on how much use there is (of the WSU testing). But we don’t have any reason to think the number of cases is going down.’
Washington state has 77,545 coronavirus cases as of Wednesday. There have been 1,953 deaths.
The state became the country’s first hotspot of outbreak in February with large numbers of cases in Seattle nursing homes.