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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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COVID-19 cases spiking across region as Grant County investigates deaths possibly linked to wedding

This electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases earlier this year shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland.   (HOGP)
This electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases earlier this year shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland.  (HOGP)

Eastern Washington and North Idaho are continuing to struggle with the COVID-19 virus as outbreaks moved quickly across the area, including those in long-term care facilities and the Airway Heights Corrections Center.

Grant County continues to see the effects of a 300-person wedding near Ritzville that became a COVID-19 superspreader event. The wedding, which took place in early November, has been linked to outbreaks and perhaps many deaths in long-term care facilities in the area.

Health officials determined that staff at those long-term care facilities in the county attended the wedding and later tested positive for COVID-19.

At least three facilities in the county had outbreaks around Nov. 20, according to a release, but a definitive connection between those outbreaks and the wedding remains unclear.

Last Wednesday, Grant County reported seven deaths associated with those long-term care outbreaks.

On Thursday, the county reported seven more people had died in those long-term care facilities associated with outbreaks.

Grant County reported Friday an additional nine COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities that were still pending death certificate review, although the release did not mention if they were linked to the outbreaks.

Whether a direct link exists between the wedding and the deaths is still being investigated. Because staff members care for entire units, it’s unclear how much direct contact those who attended the wedding might have had with the patients who became sick, according to a news release.

The county reported 165 new cases of the virus on Monday, including Saturday and Sunday.

In neighboring Adams County, where the wedding took place, seven total COVID-19 cases are linked to the wedding, according to nursing director Karen Potts.

Washington’s COVID-19 guidance limits wedding ceremonies to 30 people with indoor receptions prohibited.

“Your choice to gather with those outside your household could lead to additional cases of COVID-19 and even death,” a Grant County Health District news release read. “Please protect those you love by staying home.”

The Washington State Department of Health urged residents Monday to rethink their winter holiday celebrations. In a news release, the department reminded people to limit gatherings to only members of their immediate households.

“We understand that people want to gather with friends and extended family in-person for the holidays, but that just isn’t possible to do safely this year,” said deputy secretary of health Lacy Fehrenback.

Spokane County casesIn Spokane County there were 969 new COVID cases reported in past three days.

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 366 new cases on Monday in addition to 603 new cases over the weekend. There are 128 people hospitalized in the county due to the virus, including 96 county residents. The county has reported 288 total deaths related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. About 61% of people have recovered.

The health district reported that the two-week case rate for Spokane continues to rise with 827.8 cases per 100,000 residents, as of Monday.

The Airway Heights Corrections Center is experiencing a fast-growing outbreak, reporting 541 confirmed cases of the virus, as of Monday. As of last Tuesday, only 71 people had tested positive. It also reported 48 confirmed cases among staff.

No deaths have been reported .

As of last Tuesday, Airway Heights, which had an average daily population was 1,924 in October, had established “alternative housing areas” within the prison to house COVID-positive patients and was temporarily restricting movement .

The state Department of Corrections created “regional care facilities” to house incarcerated individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and may need more comprehensive medical attention. Currently, Airway Heights has 21 individuals housed at a regional care facility.

The Panhandle Health District reported 565 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, including numbers from Saturday and Sunday. It’s the highest daily report yet.

Four more people have died since Friday, bringing the total number of deaths to 128. As of Monday morning, Kootenai Health had 70 COVID-19 patients.

Laurel Demkovich'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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