Whitman County submits waiver for Safe Start Washington Phase 2

No new cases since April 22; waiver waiting approval from Secretary of Health

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

Whitman County has not had any new positive cases of COVID-19 since April 22, which means the county is now eligible for a waiver to progress to Phase 2 of Safe Start Washington

Whitman County has had 16 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 for the last three weeks, according to a press release from Whitman County Emergency Operations Center.

The county submitted a Phase 2 waiver, which is pending approval from the Washington State Secretary of Health. 

Approval of the Phase 2 waiver will allow outdoor recreation and small group gatherings. Additional businesses will be allowed to open including hair and nail salons, pet groomers and retail stores, as well as restaurants and taverns at 50 percent capacity. 

Troy Henderson, director of Whitman County Public Health, said it is unknown when Whitman County will receive approval to enter Phase 2. Other counties have received approval in as little as five days or as long as two weeks. 

Henderson said testing in Whitman County has been fairly consistent with about 80 tests being administered each week. 

At least 771 people have tested negative for the virus, according to the Whitman County Health Department website

If the number of positive cases starts to increase again, Henderson said officials would open a case investigation and start contact tracing for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Certain individuals, including the Whitman County Health Officer and Gov. Jay Inslee, have the ability to impose social distancing restrictions to protect the public’s health in the event that cases begin to increase, Henderson said. 

“If things started getting out of hand, there are a number of entities that could move us back to what would look like a Phase 1,” Henderson said.