Whitman County commissioners will vote today on whether to apply for a variance that would allow the county to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to re-open the economy.

If there are no new cases of COVID-19 reported in the county today, it will be eligible to ask the state to re-open some of its businesses.

The issue was discussed Tuesday night during the Pullman City Council meeting in which the city stated its support for the move. The Whitman County commissioners will meet at 1:30 p.m. today.

“We’ve been mentioning to the county for some time, ‘Let’s get to Phase 2 as quick as we can, and do it the right way,’ ” Mayor Glenn Johnson said.

Pullman Regional Hospital CEO Scott Adams told the city council that the county can provide personal protective equipment and the hospital capacity required to respond to a surge in COVID-19 cases, requirements for the county to move into Phase 2. PRH has submitted its support for the variance as well, Adams said.

Adams said there has not been a COVID-19 positive inpatient at the hospital. The hospital has tested nearly 800 people. The county has had 16 total positive COVID-19 tests this spring.

“We remain in readiness mode,” he said.

According to Councilor Eileen Macoll, the rules from the state indicate that it’s possible for Whitman County to be removed from Phase 2 if there are more COVID-19 cases in coming days.

The hospital is about $2 million short of making up for a $10 million shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the suspension of elective surgeries. It has received $5 million in federal grants, $1.1 million from the PRH Foundation, and cost reductions will save another $1 million.

The Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport received more than $18 million in CARES Act money from the federal government that it is using to pay for construction of a new terminal and to pay for operational expenses. Director Tony Bean said construction will begin in 2021.

The airport is only experiencing one flight a day and flights average 30 passengers. Flights now stop at Walla Walla on their way to Seattle. Passengers are spaced apart in the cabin and are required to wear masks.

The City of Pullman is expecting to receive $1,036,800 from the CARES Act. It cannot be used for revenue replacement, but can be used for necessary expenditures to address COVID-19 impacts. Pullman Finance Director Mike Urban said he is determining what exactly the city can use that money for.

Kurt Dahmen, Pullman Recreation Manager, said Washington must get to Phase 3 of Inslee’s plan for outdoor activities to begin again and for pools and recreation centers to open. He said the city is targeting June 22 as the date to restart its recreation programs.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com

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