Washington State University students braved winter travel to get to campus in time for the spring semester and now must brave the increasing spread of COVID-19 once again.

WSU started its first day of classes Wednesday after the university decided to delay the semester a couple of days as winter weather closed Washington’s mountain passes.

WSU junior Danny Walsh said he was forced to delay his trip to Pullman until Sunday.

“I was trapped in Spokane for a little bit because the roads were so icy,” he said.

Walsh said he wished WSU postponed in-person courses longer, not because of the weather, but because of the rise of COVID-19 cases.

He said WSU should have gone to remote learning for the first two weeks of the semester, adding that he is worried WSU will have to move back to online courses if COVID-19 cases soar.

Itzia Mejia, a junior, called her trip to Pullman from Wenatchee “nerve-wracking” because she did not know how bad the roads were going to be. She has many friends from western Washington who had trouble getting to Pullman as winter weather closed the passes. She said WSU made the right call by delaying classes.

Raul Jimenez, a senior, moved into a new apartment and had no choice but to drive through the mountain pass so he could get to Pullman in time for his move-in date. Jimenez said he could not drive faster than 20 miles per hour down the dangerously snowy roadways.

Both Jimenez and Mejia are concerned about COVID-19. Jimenez said he has contracted the virus before and does not want to get it again. Mejia said she hopes her fellow students get their booster shots and wear masks.

Students like Mejia and Jimenez have to navigate the preferences of their professors when they decide whether to stay home or come to class that day. They both said some professors are more lenient than others about student absences if students are worried they have the virus.

Jimenez said he wishes WSU enforced COVID-19 testing more stringently and that students were given more freedom to miss classes.

“What if I am (COVID-19) positive and there are all these people around me?” he said.

During an online town hall forum last week, WSU President Kirk Schulz encouraged students and staff to stay home if they are not feeling well. He also asked instructors to be more flexible about student absences.

“Our goal here is to make it all the way through the end of the semester in a safe manner,” he said. “So, a little leniency is going to make a big difference here.”

WSU requires people to wear masks indoors. It does not require students to get COVID-19 booster shots, but university officials encourage people to get their booster.

Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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