Four staff, one student test positive for COVID-19

Sean Gannon, News Editor

Four Whitman staff members and one student in Walla Walla tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. Each case was self-reported by the five community members who were tested off-campus. To this date, there have been no positive test results administered on Whitman equipment, according to Director of Communications Gina Ohnstad.

The college was notified of these five cases between Monday, Nov. 9 and Wednesday, Nov. 11. Students who test positive for COVID-19 but are not living in Walla Walla are not included in the college’s updated website, “COVID-19 at Whitman.”  The website was changed on Thursday, Nov. 12, to include specifics of who — faculty, staff or students — tested positive.

Ohnstad said the Walla Walla County Department of Health began their contact-tracing investigations after each case was reported, and are tracking all people with which the patients had close contact.

“The college also reaches out to employees who have been exposed using Everbridge, daily contact logs, and supplementary follow-up conversations,” Ohnstad said in an email to The Wire. “The process is confidential and anyone who has been exposed is notified but is not told who exposed them. The college also identifies locations on campus that the patient may have frequented for extra sanitization in those areas.”

Ohnstad said the college has contacted all community members who are believed to have been exposed. She said that each case this week can be traced back to the households of the individuals who tested positive, and there has been no indication of campus transmission. 

It is unclear whether the student who tested positive self-reported voluntarily or was required to notify the school because they are employed on campus.

Ohnstad echoed pleas from President Kathy Murray and other administrators to continue social distancing, wearing masks, limiting social interactions and limiting travel.

“These behaviors we all agreed to in the community pledge are more important now than ever as we start to see a rise in cases in Walla Walla,” Ohnstad said.