COVID-19 case counts appear to be leveling off in Spokane County, which reported 64 new cases Wednesday, but hospitalizations due to the disease continue to rise.
Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said more than 90 people have been receiving treatment for COVID-19 this week around the region, including in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane.
“I’m concerned not only about the individuals but also about the stress on the staff,” Lutz told reporters Wednesday.
He cited high rates of burnout in hospital and intensive care unit staff, which can be difficult to address when hospitalizations continue to climb.
Spokane hospitals are now treating 77 patients for COVID-19, and 45 of them are Spokane County residents. The Panhandle Health District is reporting 31 North Idaho residents are hospitalized with the virus.
As the regional health hub, Spokane hospitals are treating patients from surrounding rural communities and counties, Lutz said, which accounts in part for increases in COVID-19 patients in local hospitals.
Incidence rates of the virus have increased in recent weeks in Spokane County and surrounding counties. Spokane County has an incidence rate of 214 cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks, according to state data. Pend Oreille County, for example, has a rate of about 101 cases per 100,000.
Okanogan County is reporting a rate of 767 cases per 100,000 residents.
Those metrics will be used to help guide school districts in their reopening risk assessments.
Spokane County has had a total of 4,132 cases of the virus.
Local health officials continue to see outbreaks in long-term care settings, as well as community spread that cannot be traced to an outbreak or a person’s workplace.
“One of the challenges is: Did the individual get it at the worksite or outside the worksite?” Lutz said.
He noted it’s usually the latter, meaning people are bringing the infection into the workplace, not catching it there.
The Spokane Regional Health District has an infection-prevention specialist who assists long-term care facilities and adult family homes when they have outbreaks. When a facility or an adult family home records at least one positive case, they move up in their prioritization with the health district, and the infection-prevention specialist can help with testing and ensure staff members have the necessary personal protective equipment.
A dozen long-term care facilities and adult family homes in Spokane County currently have outbreaks. Franklin Hills Health and Rehabilitation, Sullivan Park Care Center and Royal Park Health and Rehab each have more than 50 cases.
The county is starting to get a handle on its case investigations, with staff from the Public Health Institute joining the contact-tracing effort this week, although persuading people to cooperate can be challenging.
“It’s difficult to get people motivated to answer the phone and/or to do what we’re asking them to do, so I think that will be a challenge going forward,” Lutz said.
The Panhandle Health District reported 76 new cases Wednesday for a total of 2,018 in the five-county region. The majority of cases are still in Kootenai County, although other counties are seeing community spread, and two people have died in Shoshone County from the virus.
There are 31 North Idaho residents hospitalized with the virus. Fifteen North Idaho residents have died from it.
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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