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Spokane County approaches 200 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 2 new deaths reported

COVID-19 test kits are still in short supply so sick people who arrive at the fairgrounds are screened and have to meet criteria before they can be tested. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Two more Spokane County residents have died from COVID-19, and 12 more people were diagnosed with the disease as the community nears 200 confirmed cases.

“We are not seeing a flattening of the curve at this point,” Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz told reporters on a Friday news conference.

There were approximately 194 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Spokane County as of Friday morning, with seven deaths due to the respiratory virus so far.

Two men died of COVID-19 on Thursday, one in his 70s and one in his 60s. There are 18 people currently in local hospitals receiving treatment for COVID-19.

Statewide, case numbers increased by 381 cases overnight, with nearly 7,000 Washingtonians now confirmed positive for the respiratory virus.

So far, 8.4% of Washington residents who have been tested for the coronavirus have had results come back positive, and 284 people have died.

Despite the increase in cases, local health care providers stressed that they have the resources and capacity to treat members of the community who need treatment. The majority of people who get COVID-19 will not need hospitalization or treatment, but people older than 60 or those with underlying health conditions might develop severe symptoms, requiring treatment.

“I feel when the need arises, we have the resources to take care of the members of our community,” Dr. Dan Getz, chief medical officer at Providence Sacred Heart and Holy Family hospitals, told reporters.

Health care providers have canceled elective surgeries, are looking to shift some staff to COVID-19 response functions and have made preparations to treat a potential surge in patients in the coming weeks.

“We are doing a tremendous amount of work to prepare for a surge of patients we anticipate,” said Dr. David O’Brien, chief executive at MultiCare in the Inland Northwest, noting that their hospitals are preparing various areas to treat COVID-19 patients.

The Spokane County Emergency Coordination Center is streamlining requests for personal protective equipment to the state, and Chandra Fox, an incident commander, said that the first request to the state on March 12 was filled last week. That order represented only 8% of that request, however.

“In a normal disaster response, we have the ability to go to our neighboring jurisdictions, counties and reach out to other states,” Fox said.

However, with the national and global reach of COVID-19, the market is incredibly competitive, and county coordinators are looking to other sources for supplies.

Fox said there likely will be another donation drive for personal protective equipment from the community soon.

Hospital systems have access to their own personal protective equipment supply chains, and Providence and MultiCare executives acknowledged that they are working hard to secure more for their health care workers.

Getz said they had secured a supply of personal protective equipment and said that health care providers in the community will continue to collaborate and ensure there are enough resources to go around.

Local health care providers are coordinating efforts to open an alternate care complex, which will include a site where individuals who have COVID-19 or COVID-like illness can isolate themselves if they cannot do so at their own homes or if they are currently experiencing homelessness.

Lutz said the isolation site will be at the Spokane County fairgrounds and will likely be available to the community next week.

Lutz said there are also discussions underway to set up an alternate care facility, which could serve as a decompression site for local hospitals if they find themselves overwhelmed with patients.

Coordination is also in the works with other local hospitals with beds to potentially treat non-COVID patients, like Shriners and St. Luke’s. These plans will be used only if the local hospitals that can treat COVID-19 patients become overwhelmed, Lutz said.

“What I don’t want to have happen is that we need it, and we weren’t prepared for it,” Lutz said.

The alternate care facility would be important to prepare the Spokane region for potential transfers of patients from other parts of Eastern Washington, Lutz said. The scope of practice, treatment and what care would be offered at the alternate care facility have not been determined yet, Lutz said.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.