New COVID-19 testing option coming to Walla Walla from University of Washington

A University of Washington testing center at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle last year.

Editor’s note: As local COVID-19 case rates and other numbers continue to fall, the Union-Bulletin will move to reporting on the pandemic on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Those stories will appear in our print product on Thursday. We will continue to monitor related numbers in Walla Walla, Umatilla and Columbia counties and return to weekly reporting if needed.

One sign that the COVID-19 pandemic is working its way into the endemic stage is a slowing of reporting by public health officials.

On March 30, Oregon Health Authority staff announced it would stop distributing a daily media release about COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths beginning Monday, April 4.

Such information will continue to be on OHA’s website and data dashboards, but the urgent need to communicate quickly evolving COVID-19 trends on a daily basis has diminished due to a decline in cases and hospitalizations for the virus.

As well, “the public has the knowledge and tools to protect themselves,” the agency announced in a news release while cautioning that the pandemic has not reached an end.

This move was preceded by a reduction of daily reports in Oregon counties; like others, Umatilla County now posts COVID-19 updates on Wednesdays only instead of Monday-Friday.

For Joseph Fiumara, the slowing of the disease means Umatilla County’s public health director no longer makes a report to commissioners every Monday morning, as he did for some two years.

“I told them I was comfortable suspending that report,” Fiumara said Monday, April 4.

Oregon’s case numbers are creeping up once again, in line with national trends attributed to the second strain of the omicron variant, he acknowledged, but that rise has not struck Umatilla County yet.

Last week, 18 positive COVID-19 cases were reported to public health, and six of those were delayed reports from Washington state from January and February, Fiumara said.

While the March 12 drop of indoor masking mandates may impact other parts of Oregon more, poor adherence to the rule in Umatilla County through the pandemic means that move is unlikely to cause a blip in numbers now, he said.

In Walla Walla County, public health leader Dr. Daniel Kaminsky said 95% of the counties in the United States are in the low case transmission rate range and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data, all of Washington state is in that same category.

Washington’s seven-day rolling case rate is 43 cases per 100,000 people, and Walla Walla County is at 17.6, Kaminsky said.

The county’s rate looks higher at this moment because 240 cases from as far back as three months ago just dropped from the state, he added.

Due to lack of demand, the county will pause its COVID-19 testing at Providence Southgate Medical Park on Friday, April 8, until further notice. The vaccination clinic will continue on Wednesdays at that location. Kaminsky said just about 50% of Walla Walla County residents have received booster doses of the vaccine.

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COVID-19 numbers for Walla Walla County, April 4:

  • No new cases.
  • 60.2% of all residents fully vaccinated.
  • 27 active cases, down from 35 last week.
  • One person is hospitalized; 729 total related hospitalizations.
  • 140 deaths, according to state data; the county reports 136 deaths.
  • 15,887 total cases.
  • Reported test positivity rate is 0.2%.

Numbers for Umatilla County, last updated March 30:

  • 21 reported cases over the past week, up from nine the week before, some due to old cases just now reported.
  • 208 deaths, two more than last week.
  • 22,317 total cases; 3,598 in children under age 18.
  • 40,270 of 81,495 residents have been vaccinated

Numbers for Columbia County, April 3:

  • No active cases.
  • 45% of residents fully vaccinated, the same as last week.
  • 59 total hospitalizations.
  • 15 deaths total.
  • 608 total cases, the same as last week.

Some information for Columbia and Walla Walla counties is from Washington State Department of Health.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at or 526-8322.

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.

(2) comments




The reporting is accurate and comprehensive but deadlines are a harsh taskmaster and when someone sticks a terrible headline on an otherwise decent story at just the wrong time… oh the pain. Walla Walla county is, er, “reporting” new cases on the website today. The headline, in context, could (perhaps) be defended as accurate - but wow is it potentially misleading for the “quick glance” reader. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess the reporter got it right and did not right the awful headline. 😊

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