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COVID-19

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Spokane County crests 5,000 COVID cases, but incidence rate continues to fall

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 24, 2020

Spokane County crested the 5,000-case mark for COVID-19 infections, after the Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 30 new cases Monday, in addition to 66 over the weekend.

There are now 5,092 cases confirmed countywide. An estimated 72% of those residents with the virus have recovered, meaning they are not hospitalized and are at least 28 days beyond their initial diagnosis.

Three more people died from COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the total to 113 residents who have died from the virus this year in Spokane County.

The incidence rate of infection in the community continues to drop dramatically from the peak in late July, when the county averaged more 228 cases per 100,000 residents. The most recent two-week incidence rate is 125 cases per 100,000 residents in Spokane County.

For school districts to safely consider bringing students back into school buildings at least part time, the state Department of Health recommends a county be between 25 and 75 cases per 100,000 residents.

Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said he would want to see the incidence rate remain below that 75-case level for a couple weeks. Lutz also warned the incidence rate is just one metric he and other health officials are evaluating.

“We are indeed trending nicely downward,” Lutz said.

While the amount of testing in the community has dropped off, the percentage of residents testing positive has not dropped significantly, Lutz said.

The Department of Health is updating the statewide testing data, and new figures should be released this week for the total number of tests conducted, which influences how many people in a county test positive.

Ultimately, Lutz said he remains cautious in his optimism, largely due to the unpredictable nature of the virus.

“COVID-19 is extremely sensitive to behavior change,” Lutz said, noting that policies like the mask mandate seemed to work but could also be ineffective if not taken seriously.

Public health officials are looking for a drop in the percentage of positive tests, as well as monitoring hospitalizations and deaths, which are slower data points, since hospitalizations are not always immediate for the virus. These metrics can also indicate the impact of the virus on the community.

There are 38 patients in Spokane hospitals with COVID-19, and 32 of them are county residents. Hospitalizations appear to have peaked in late July.

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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