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News >  Spokane

Spokane County deaths due to COVID-19 have nearly doubled in August

UPDATED: Fri., Aug. 28, 2020

Tom Robinson, who crafted these wooden crosses, picks up the mobile display Monday, May 4, outside Spokane City Hall where he had set them up, with another member of a Facebook group Stronger Together Spokane to illustrate the Spokane death toll of COVID-19. The country surpassed 200,000 deaths from the virus this week.   (JESSE TINSLEY)
Tom Robinson, who crafted these wooden crosses, picks up the mobile display Monday, May 4, outside Spokane City Hall where he had set them up, with another member of a Facebook group Stronger Together Spokane to illustrate the Spokane death toll of COVID-19. The country surpassed 200,000 deaths from the virus this week.  (JESSE TINSLEY)

Deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County have nearly doubled this month, after a spike in cases earlier this summer led to an increase in hospitalizations.

From late March through July, 65 residents died from COVID-19, according to the Spokane Regional Health District data.

In August, that number jumped dramatically. As of Friday, 120 residents have died due to COVID-19.

All but two of the county’s COVID-19 deaths have been in residents over the age of 50.

To date, 82 – or 68% – of those deaths are associated with outbreaks at long-term care facilities, according to state health department data. Those facilities have also confirmed 546 cases of the coronavirus.

Outbreaks in long-term care facilities continue to contribute to the county’s case counts.

As of Friday, 16 long-term care facilities in the county were experiencing outbreaks, according the health district. Those outbreaks account for at least 419 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The Panhandle Health District, which covers five North Idaho counties, is dealing with 13 outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Those outbreaks involve 218 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Outbreaks in long-term care settings account for 24 of the Panhandle’s 45 COVID-19 deaths.

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 58 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

Forty-three patients are hospitalized for the virus in Spokane hospitals, and 37 of them are county residents.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 15 new cases on Friday, and 349 cases are considered active by the district. Sixteen Panhandle residents are hospitalized with the virus.

So far, more than 1,900 Washington residents have died due to COVID-19.

While incomplete state data indicates that deaths due to COVID-19 may be plateauing or declining, state modelers estimate that somewhere between 1,250 and 1,875 more residents will die from the virus by the end of the year.

“This would likely make COVID-19 a top-five cause of death in Washington this year,” the Institute for Disease Modeling situation report from Friday says.

Statewide, the reproductive rate of the virus is hovering around 1, with overall trends of cases statewide plateauing or declining.

There are hot spots, however, including in Whitman County, where college-aged students have driven the COVID-19 case rate up dramatically, despite Washington State University moving almost entirely to a remote-learning format.

In just the past week, the Whitman County Public Health Department confirmed 225 COVID-19 cases among young adults under the age of 39, due primarily to off-campus gatherings and parties in Pullman. Young adults have more than doubled the county’s previous number of cases.

On Aug. 15, Whitman County had 130 COVID-19 cases. Just two weeks later, the county is reporting 364 total confirmed cases.

Troy Henderson, director of public health in Whitman County, said cases are mainly linked to off-campus environments, as few students are living in dorms.

Local health care providers and Pullman Regional Hospital have been providing testing for students. The number of tests conducted as well as the percentage of people testing positive have both skyrocketed in recent weeks.

Pullman Regional Hospital, which has a testing site, tested a little more than 100 community members for the virus from July 22 to Aug. 4. From Aug. 12 through Aug. 25, the hospital has tested more than 800 people.

The positivity rate has also increased in the hospital’s test samples.

In late July, the hospital reported a 2% positivity rate. This week, 16% of people tested are positive with the virus.

Megan Guido, community relations officer at Pullman Regional, said the hospital has enough supplies to accommodate the increased demand for now. WSU is planning to open up a testing site in the coming weeks too, Guido said.

Case counts do not appear to have impacted other community members in Whitman County, but Henderson said that with the virus’s incubation period, it is still too early to tell if the virus has spread to other parts of the community.

“We’ve still got our fingers crossed,” Henderson said.

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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