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State returns Walla Walla County’s modified Phase 3 application in the face of increasing COVID-19 numbers

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COVID-19

Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman returned Walla Walla County’s application to move into a modified Phase 3 of the governor’s Safe Start program as advancement for all counties has been postponed until at least July 28.

Wiesman announced Monday he is sending back all such applications from counties whose applications were pending review before Gov. Jay Inslee implemented a statewide pause on reopening plans due to the number of recent COVID-19 cases.

On July 14, Inslee and Wiesman extended the pause announced on July 2 for any county to advance to the next phase of the reopening plan. This pause is anticipated to last until at least next week, according to the release.

“By the time these applications are eligible for review, at least four weeks will have passed (since they were submitted),” according to the release. “Much has changed during this time period, and information in the applications will be outdated.”

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 full Phase 3.

But the county and state have seen an increase in disease activity since the local modified Phase 3 application was submitted.

Wiesman said he is uncertain when the state will begin receiving applications again for counties to advance in the Safe Start plan, and the application process may be modified, according to a release from county officials.

County commissioners and the local health department will be notified when the state determines the process for moving forward, and county officials will review the process and determine the county’s next steps.

Walla Walla Deputy City Manager Elizabeth Chamberlain said on the city’s video update Monday that 43 new cases of coronavirus had been reported in Walla Walla County since Friday.

There were 91 cases in active isolation this morning. Two people are in the hospital, Chamberlain said in the video. Another 209 people have recovered from COVID-19.

There have been 303 cases of the coronavirus reported since the beginning of the outbreak in Walla Walla County, predominantly among city of Walla Walla residents.

Walla Walla County is in Phase 2, which allows for people to see five others outside of their immediate household per week or less.

Other surrounding counties have also reported increasing case counts.

Umatilla County health officials reported 164 new confirmed positive cases Monday. The confirmed case count there is 1,348 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

There are 290 active cases, and 1,135 previously reported cases are inactive. Presumptive positive cases total 86.

Two more patients were admitted to the hospital with the disease, totaling 14 hospitalizations in the county. Nine people have died from the coronavirus.

Columbia County reported two people with an active case of the coronavirus; eight are reported as recovered.

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Chloe LeValley covers the cities of Walla Walla and College Place as well as agriculture and the environment in the Walla Walla Valley. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University and joined the Union-Bulletin's team in October 2019.