The coronavirus pandemic has reached Walla Walla County.
An adult who tested positive for the virus is currently being hospitalized at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, according to the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.
The man hails from Umatilla County, Walla Walla’s neighboring county. According to The Oregonian, the man is a staff member at Wildhorse Resort & Casino, which is located on the Umatilla Indian Reservation – approximately 40 miles from Whitman College campus. The man was attending a middle school basketball game in Weston, Oregon, on Saturday, Feb. 29, when he was transferred to Walla Walla to be treated for the virus.
The casino and middle school gym have since been closed for deep cleaning.
This is the third case of COVID-19 – novel coronavirus – in Oregon, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The first case emerged on Feb. 19 in Washington County when an employee of the Lake Oswego school district began exhibiting symptoms. They were tested and their diagnosis was confirmed on Friday, Feb. 28. The second person – a household contact of the first individual – tested positive on Monday, March 1, according to KGW8 News. The individual at Providence St. Mary is now the third.
Whitman’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Kazi Joshua addressed the potential spread of coronavirus in an email to the Whitman College community.
“We are taking this information very seriously, and I know you are as well,” Joshua said. “Right now, our local health officials are not recommending any additional action on our part. Campus remains open, classes are being held as normal, and we are working on contingency plans in case there comes a time when that is not a possibility.”
“This situation is changing rapidly,” the email continued. “We are watching the spread of coronavirus very closely and are ready to act should recommendations change. We are preparing for every possible evolution of this outbreak including ways it may impact the home countries of some of our students, areas where our extended Whitman family live throughout the United States, and here at home in the Walla Walla Valley.”
With spring break only 11 days away, the email also requested that students notify the College of their spring break plans via a Google form, and cautioned students against traveling to any location classified as Alert Level 2 and Warning Level 3 by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
This email follows a Feb. 28 email distributed to the Whitman community titled “Coronavirus information.” The email updated the campus community on the coronavirus situation and shared ways in which community members can protect themselves against the virus.
Whitman College has provided an information page that outlines prevention suggestions and informs the campus community on developments related to the virus. The page can be found here.