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COVID-19

News >  Spokane

Social distancing slows virus’ spread in Spokane County; 7 new cases, 1 death reported

April 9, 2020 Updated Thu., April 9, 2020 at 9:57 p.m.

A small group of Eastern State Hospital off-duty or on break nurses protest the lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) that is being provided to the state-run psychiatric hospital’s health care workers, Thurs., April 9, 2020. Many nurses have to use cloth masks that they take home at to wash. Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
A small group of Eastern State Hospital off-duty or on break nurses protest the lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) that is being provided to the state-run psychiatric hospital’s health care workers, Thurs., April 9, 2020. Many nurses have to use cloth masks that they take home at to wash. Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Jared Brown and Arielle Dreher The Spokesman-Review

Social distancing is slowing the spread of COVID-19, Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said Thursday, but he warned that letting up on the brakes too quickly could lead to an increase in cases in the community.

To date, 246 residents in Spokane County have tested positive for the respiratory virus, and 43 people have required hospitalization.

A man in his 80s died on Wednesday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 14 in the county. The number of cases in the county increased by seven.

While health district staff have not identified any “hot spots” where the virus is spreading locally, Lutz said cases are concentrated in the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley.

Health officials are looking at mapping local cases to potentially target educational efforts about social distancing and Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, which will stay in effect through May 4.

Lutz warned even if the county manages to keep case numbers down by that point, mitigation efforts and restrictions will likely be lifted slowly when the time comes.

“I think (we could see) a gradual lightening up of restrictions,” Lutz said. “There might be some targeted industries loosened up first.”

Statewide, Washington reported just more than 9,600 cases as of Thursday, according to the state health department. Garfield County remained the lone county without a case in Eastern Washington where more than 1,200 confirmed cases have been confirmed.

Ferry and Pend Oreille counties each had one case while Stevens County had six, as of Thursday evening, according to the Northeast Tri County Health District. One person was hospitalized in Stevens County.

Whitman County had 12 cases as of Thursday, according to its public health department. Four people reportedly recovered from the disease there.

Yakima County has reported the most cases in Eastern Washington, with 447 cases and 19 deaths, according to its public health department. Benton County reported 215 cases and five deaths on Thursday.

Personal protective equipment, used by health care workers to treat patients with COVID-19, remains in high demand statewide.

Providence received one of its first major supplies shipments on Saturday, but five nurses at Eastern State Hospital, which has reported two cases in employees, protested the federal government’s lagging supplies distribution efforts in a demonstration outside the psychiatric hospital Thursday afternoon.

“We don’t have patients with COVID yet, but if we do, all of us don’t have the supplies we need,” said Michelle Hiseley, who has worked at the hospital since 2007.

The protest was in conjunction with other front-line health care workers across Washington and Montana who are represented by the union SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.

Hiseley said Eastern State Hospital has done its best to provide protective equipment, including distributing cloth masks to staff who hadn’t already acquired them. She said employees already have safety concerns related to potential patient assaults, but the threat of illness for workers and their families adds even more stress.

Dry Fly Distilling provided the facility with some hand sanitizer and many employees and their families have made masks to make up for the lack of supplies, Hiseley said.

“I think the president was unprepared for this even though there were indications of a pandemic,” Hiseley said. “If we’re considered essential workers, our own government should treat us like it.”

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.

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