Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz told residents during a virtual town hall Wednesday night he is “cautiously optimistic” about the spread of COVID-19 in Spokane and is encouraged by data that shows social distancing made a difference in the Seattle area.
But Lutz also cited Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the people leading the federal COVID-19 response, to urge Spokane residents not to relax safety measures put in place to slow the virus’ spread.
Lutz said he expects social distancing and other guidelines will be lifted gradually to guard against a resurgence of the novel coronavirus.
“As we start to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, we need to acknowledge that it’s down the road, and we need to cautiously return to life as normal,” Lutz said. “I do not want to be here again.”
Spokane County added a dozen cases to its count Wednesday, with 239 residents who have COVID-19. Of those people, 13 have died and 15 are receiving treatment at local hospitals.
Local health officials have encouraged social distancing and the use of face coverings in essential public spaces where it can be difficult to maintain 6 feet of distance between people.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study Wednesday of a “super-spreader” event, at which one asymptomatic person in Chicago who did not know they had the respiratory virus infected 15 other people after attending two extended family gatherings. Three people died from the virus as a result.
The person attended these gatherings before social distancing and mitigation efforts were in place in Chicago.
“Overall, these findings highlight the importance of adhering to current social distancing recommendations, including guidance to avoid any gatherings with persons from multiple households and following state or local stay-at-home orders,” the report says.
A person with COVID-19, who is asymptomatic, can still spread the virus, emphasizing the importance of social distancing in public to slow the spread of the virus and of quarantining only with immediate household members.
CDC findings this week also highlight that Americans with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to severe illness that requires hospitalization as a result of COVID-19. In their analysis of U.S. COVID-19 cases, researchers found that patients with underlying health conditions were admitted to the hospital and the ICU in higher percentages than others without underlying health conditions.
“These results are consistent with findings from China and Italy, which suggest that patients with underlying health conditions and risk factors, including, but not limited to, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, COPD, coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic renal disease, and smoking, might be at higher risk for severe disease or death from COVID-19,” the report found.
In Washington, 9,097 residents have COVID-19 and 421 have died from the respiratory virus.
The Spokesman-Review reporter Jared Brown contributed to this report.
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