The Whitman County Public Health director expressed frustration with Washington state officials for their data gathering that led to the county returning to Phase 2 of the state’s phased COVID-19 recovery plan.

Whitman County moved back to Phase 2 last week when it failed to meet metrics related to COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations.

According to the April 12 Associated Press report, the data evaluating the counties was based on hospitalizations between March 24 and March 30 and case counts between March 20 and April 2.

Public Health Director Chris Skidmore told the Whitman County commissioners on Monday that this timeframe only provided a snapshot of the county’s situation. He said the state’s announcement last week did not accurately reflect what was happening in the county, which saw improvement.

“Our case rates were going down and our hospitalizations had been very, very low in the two weeks prior,” he said.

He said Whitman County was penalized for a hospitalization that Skidmore believes should not have been counted. He said the person was hospitalized in early March, but did not get discharged until near the end of the month when the state evaluated Whitman County’s numbers.

“They were currently hospitalized during that time frame, but they weren’t a new hospitalization so to speak,” he said

The rise in COVID-19 cases last month was largely tied to the college-age population in Pullman. Skidmore said much of the new infections are now in the outlying communities and involve people in the K-12 age group.

“We have tied some of these transmissions to a sporting event that happened back on the first of the month that involved several different schools here in Whitman County,” he said. “And so I think over the next week or two we may see some more cases coming from that exposure.”

He said it will be a challenge for Whitman County to meet the state’s COVID-19 metrics by May 3 when the state will make its next evaluation.

Commissioner Tom Handy said he is worried that even if the county does move back to Phase 3, it will be hurt again if college students hold parties to celebrate the end of the spring semester.

Skidmore said the other challenge is making sure enough people continue to be vaccinated.

“We’re going to be pushing messaging very, very aggressively to try to get folks vaccinated,” he said.

Skidmore said the county received an allocation of 5,000 doses this week. He estimated about 20 percent of the county’s population has been vaccinated.

Whitman County on Monday reported 27 new COVID-19 cases since Monday with no new deaths or hospitalizations. This brings the county’s total to 4,101 cases since the pandemic began. There have been a total of 47 deaths and 100 hospitalizations.

Latah County reported 18 new cases since Friday, with 14 of those being patients aged 18-29. One patient is in their 30s and three are in their 50s. No new deaths were reported.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 2,870 confirmed cases, 159 probable cases and 10 deaths in Latah County.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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