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State pauses Walla Walla County's modified Phase 3 application

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This story has been modified to update numbers released this morning.Walla Walla County’s application for a modified Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan was paused today, officials announced.

Meghan DeBolt, Walla Walla County Department of Community Health director, said during Monday’s county commissioner meeting the pause might occur due to the number of recent COVID-19 cases. That suspicion was confirmed in a decision announced today by state Secretary of Health John Wiesman.

Wiesman has asked the county to monitor virus activity in Walla Walla and the surrounding areas for another week and work with him on determining next steps.

The county has reported 41 new cases in the last two weeks, nearly three times the targeted 15 cases in the same period needed in order to advance to the next phase.

As of this morning, the number of total cases of coronavirus in Walla Walla County since March was 168 cases. Thirty-nine of those are currently active. Two of those people are hospitalized, and 37 are isolating at home. Three people have died, and 126 have recovered, according to figures online for the county.

Walla Walla County applied for the modified Phase 3 on June 19, and the county’s application has been in review since. The hope was to move to Phase 3 with limitations that would keep group gatherings to no more than 25 people, rather than the 50 allowed in Phase 3.

The third phase of the four-phase plan allows for outdoor recreational sports and activities up to 50 people, use of gyms and public pools by 50 people or fewer, some professional sports events with no audience and the opening of movie theaters, libraries and museums with attendance caps. The modified request would also have kept travel out of Walla Walla limited to essential trips.

DeBolt on Monday attributed the newest cases to local residents traveling out of town for work or other reasons, as well as household exposure, and not from visitors.

Meanwhile, a 74-year-old Umatilla County man with underlying health conditions was the fifth person in the county to die from COVID-19, officials said Monday.

The Umatilla County man tested positive June 21 and died Friday at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston, according to the county Public Health Department.

Additionally, 64 new positive cases since Friday were reported by the department Monday. Officials were in contact with those people to determine the origins of their illness.

The county has six hospitalized patients as well as 235 active cases, 257 recovered, 34 presumptive-positive cases, 463 confirmed cases and 497 total cases since the novel coronavirus hit the county.

“Individuals are considered recovered when they are at least 10 days from illness onset and have been free from symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath and diarrhea for 72 hours,” a release stated.

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Emily Thornton can be reached at or 509-526-8325.

Emily Thornton covers courts and emergency services, as well as other various stories. She has been in the newspaper industry off and on since roughly 1999 and lived primarily on the West Coast, but also Florida and Europe.