Walla Walla County Department of Community Health

Gov. Jay Inslee confirmed over Twitter that Walla Walla is now eligible to apply to advance into Phase 2 of his economic reopening plan this afternoon.

According to Inslee, Walla Walla and Klickitat  are the two latest counties to eligible to apply. He posted that along with a list of the seven other counties that advanced into Phase 2 over the weekend.

Entry into the next phase allows some nonessential businesses to open with safety restrictions. Gatherings of up to five people outside of the household are allowed, according to the Safe Start plan.

Openings include dine-in restaurants at 50% capacity, in-store retail, professional and personal services, real estate operations, pet grooming businesses, fitness facilities and more.

Walla Walla County resubmitted its application for a variance to move into Phase 2 on Saturday after the county met low disease activity eligibility requirements by having six cases or fewer for two weeks.

The county is awaiting approval from the state Department of Health, which is said to take three to five business days.

In the meantime, the county is urging businesses to prepare to move into Phase 2.

Commissioners expressed appreciation for Meghan DeBolt, the director of the Department of Community Health and her team for completing the extensive application and resubmitting the details over the weekend to get the county into Phase 2 as soon as possible.

The county currently has 108 cases and had no new cases last week. However two new cases have been reported since then, DeBolt said this morning at the commissioner meeting.

There are 103 recovered cases of coronavirus in the county and two deaths in the community. There are three active cases under public health monitoring and home isolation. One patient is hospitalized in the Tri-Cities, she said.

The county submitted its initial variance request last Thursday before it was actually eligible.

She said the county received confirmation from Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman that it meets the criteria for low disease activity.

DeBolt said the county is prepared should it see an increase above six cases per week.

“We have to have the local capacity within our healthcare system and our public health system to be able to respond to an outbreak situation or to any cases that come through our community,” she said. “We have the capacity to do that here locally.”

There is no guidance on how to move to Phase 3 so far.

The Department of Community Health partnered with the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce and the cities of Walla Walla and College Place to host "Town Hall" sessions via Zoom on Phase 2 reopening guidelines for various sectors. These videos can be found on the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce website, according to a release.

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Chloe LeValley can be reached at chloelevalley@wwub.com or 509-526-8326.

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.