COVID-19 testing

Washington state health officials are urging people without symptoms of or close-contact exposure to COVID-19 to wait to get tested for now so those who are showing signs can be processed first.

New positive tests of COVID-19 continued to increase this weekend in Umatilla and Walla Walla counties, following Walla Walla County’s 14th virus-related death Friday.

In Walla Walla County, a man in his 90s was the fourth county resident this week to die after being diagnosed with COVID-19, health officials reported Friday.

As of 5 p.m. Saturday, 33 more people had tested positive for the illness, and 446 people in the county have active COVID-19 cases. Nine of those people are hospitalized, data showed.

According to the county’s Department of Community Health, there have been 1,736 confirmed positive tests and 1,276 people have recovered.

One Walla Walla Veterans Home employee tested positive for the illness this week, according to the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

The staff person did not work directly in patient care and was wearing mandated and appropriate personal protective equipment while at work, VA spokeswoman Heidi Audette said.

The 1,734 total confirmed cases in Walla Walla County includes 33 Washington State Penitentiary staff and 158 inmates, according to the Washington state Department of Corrections. No related deaths have been reported at the prison.

Columbia County public health officials most recently reported on Nov. 2, noting six residents with active cases, 15 people who have recovered from COVID-19 and one related death.

In Umatilla County, there were 39 new cases reported early Saturday morning by the Oregon Health Authority. Combined with a reported 40 additional positive tests Friday, the county’s overall case count is at 3,827. The disease has killed 45 people in Umatilla County.

Washington state Department of Health reported 125,498 total cases of the disease, including 2,233 new cases announced Saturday. There were 2,519 total deaths noted Saturday, the same number as Friday.

The daily increases of positive tests urged Gov. Jay Inslee this week to address Washingtonians and tell them to consider staying home with no out-of-household guests for Thanksgiving.

According to The Seattle Times, Inslee is expected to issue another sweeping set of restrictions Sunday. According to the paper, it would be a four-week partial lockdown in order to curb the spread of the virus.

In Oregon, another 1,097 people tested positive for the coronavirus, making the state’s overall total 56,018, including 759 deaths, six of which were reported Saturday, according to Oregon Health Authority.

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Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.

Jedidiah Maynes is a reporter for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin covering a variety of topics including local court cases. He enjoys making music and puns.