Whitman County’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases prompted the Whitman County Department of Public Health to issue an emergency order Friday clamping down on public gatherings within the city of Pullman, though a rally planned for today is still scheduled to take place.

The order, signed by Brad Bowman, health officer for the district, exceeds Washington state’s current Phase 3 guidelines and limits social gatherings within the city limits that aren’t associated with weddings, funerals or religious services to no more than 10 people.

Masks also are required unless people are physically unable to wear one or are younger than 2, and 6-foot social distancing must be maintained. The order went into effect immediately Friday afternoon.

Chris Skidmore, director of the health department, said the order was issued in light of 140 recent cases of COVID-19 since March 26 and a significant and increasing number of assumed cases of community transmission occurring at a time when large-scale social distancing measures are recommended.

“Compliance with this order will reduce the likelihood that many individuals will be exposed to COVID-19 at a single event,” the order said, noting it will help preserve critical and limited health care capacity.

The order is targeted to Pullman since the outbreak appears to be focused in that area.

Jiemei Lin, one of the organizers of the Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander Hate rally scheduled for 2 p.m. today at Reaney Park in Pullman, told the Lewiston Tribune Friday afternoon the event will go on despite the health department ruling.

“We will not force people to come if they don’t want to,” Lin said. “We are not going to ask people to come, but we’re not going to cancel this thing.”

Lin speculated the crowd size could be small, although 190 people expressed interest on the group’s Facebook page. She said masks and social distancing will be required.

Asotin County reported four new COVID-19 cases Friday for a 14-day count of 27. Garfield County had not updated its website since Wednesday.

Public Health – Idaho North Central District recorded three cases Friday, including two in Latah County and one in Nez Perce County. Gritman Medical Center in Moscow reported a seven-day 1.72 percent positivity rate, or 22 positive COVID-19 tests out of 1,277 total tests as of Thursday. The total number of patients admitted to the hospital for inpatient care who have tested positive for the virus is 41.

There have been 7,267 total COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to 4,405 people.

Hedberg may be contacted at kathyhedberg@gmail.com or (208) 983-2326.