No confirmed COVID-19 cases in Whitman County


LUKE HUDSON, Evergreen reporter

11:58 a.m., March 11

Update: There are still no confirmed COVID-19 cases as of 11:58 a.m., Wednesday.

The Whitman County Public Health Department has not confirmed any cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the county.

Troy Henderson, director of Whitman County Public Health, said it is likely that there are cases in Whitman County but none have been confirmed.

“It’s probably 50-50 odds that we have cases here,” he said.

The county has not been able to do as much testing as Henderson said he would like to do because of delays at a “federal level.”

“I’d like to see everyone with a sore throat or a cough get tested until we figure this out,” he said.

The Public Health Department sent 10 tests within the past few days and it is waiting on a response, Henderson said. Two other tests sent to the University of Washington came back negative.

Whitman County is unlikely to test people in the county and will instead send samples to other labs in Washington for results, he said. Most doctor’s offices and healthcare providers send tests to other facilities.

Megan Guido, Pullman Regional Hospital chief marketing and community relations officer, said the hospital is working with local organizations to plan its response.

She said PRH hosted a meeting involving Pullman Public Schools, Cougar Health Services, police and local doctor’s offices. Henderson led the meeting.

Guido said they met to discuss issuing regular updates on confirmed cases, testing coordination and getting specimens out to labs.

Minutes were not taken during the meeting and Guido said she did not know if information from the meeting will be made public. 

Henderson said the department has been working as if COVID-19 is in Pullman, and one confirmed case will not change the way it operates.

If there is an outbreak, he said, the way the county responds to it will depend more on who gets infected and how severe the cases are.

If enough people from a vulnerable population such as the elderly get infected then more resources will be needed to treat them, Henderson said. 

A WSU student was tested but has not yet been diagnosed with COVID-19 and told the Evergreen their test sample was taken to Pullman Regional Hospital. The student said her experience at Pullman Regional Hospital while running a fever of 102 degree Fahrenheit was dismal. The student’s parent tested positive a week before they got tested at Pullman Regional, they told the Evergreen.

This story will be updated as more information is available. The student being tested for the virus will remain anonymous for privacy reasons.