Confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Eastern Washington.
Spokane County has 222 people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Among them, 12 have died, health officials said Monday. The most recent death was a man in his 90s, who died over the weekend.
“We’ve had 20 to 30 more individuals diagnosed over the weekend,” Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz told reporters Monday. “Yakima County has more than 300 cases. We are not seeing an overall flattening of the curve from the local level, but at a state level, the number of cases seem to be decreasing on the West Side.”
While the number of cases is increasing, they are not doing so exponentially, which would be worrisome. Lutz said this likely has to do with our region’s ability to learn from how health care systems reacted in the Puget Sound area as well as the fact that Spokane is not a major metropolitan area, such as New York City or Detroit, where case numbers have climbed quickly in recent days.
This past weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines for wearing homemade face coverings and masks in public settings where social distancing measures can be difficult to keep, like grocery stores and pharmacies. Lutz said face coverings can help prevent a person who is asymptomatic (and might unknowingly have COVID-19) from transmitting infection as well as send a message to community members that you care about not spreading the virus.
Lutz noted that N95 respirators and surgical masks should be preserved for first responders, health care workers and people on the front lines treating people with COVID-19.
Hospitalizations are a key indicator for Lutz and health officials to evaluate how COVID-19 is affecting the community. In total, 35 people have been hospitalized in the county with coronavirus to date, and 14 COVID-19 patients still were hospitalized on Monday.
“We have not had a significant uptick in increased hospitalizations in recent days,” Lutz said.
While local health officials have not identified official trends in who is getting COVID-19 in Spokane County, Lutz said that they have seen a number of health care workers contracting the virus. Health officials are beginning to look at geographic mapping of cases in the county to see if they can identify regions with increased numbers as well, Lutz said, noting they could have more information about targeted education about interventions in those regions in the near future.
People experiencing symptoms who want to be tested can still go to the Spokane County fairgrounds drive-up screening site to be evaluated. Not everyone who is screened will get a test, however. County officials also are collecting donations of personal protective equipment, including masks (N95s, surgical or hand-sewn), gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and paper towels. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. donations are collected at the fairgrounds off of Broadway, for officials to distribute to first responders, health care organizations and other groups that have requested PPE or other materials.
With nearly a month of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order ahead, Lutz repeated guidance to residents on Monday, saying “Don’t hang out any place.”
Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story 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.
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