Washington businesses must require all patrons and employees to wear face coverings starting Tuesday under an order from Gov. Jay Inslee, as populous areas east of the Cascade Range have seen troubling upticks in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
Inslee’s order has exemptions for children 5 and younger, and for Washingtonians with medical conditions or disabilities that preclude them from covering their faces or mouths. All others are expected to wear face coverings in buildings and outdoor settings where people can’t practice 6-foot social distancing. The order was previously in place only in Yakima County, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus.
Case counts continue to grow in the Inland Northwest, despite lag times for test results and testing supply shortages. The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 70 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the county’s total to 1,738.
In the Panhandle Health District, which covers Idaho’s five northern counties, 90 new cases were confirmed on Monday. All five counties now have confirmed cases of the virus, including Shoshone County, which discovered its first case late last week. Most of the health district’s 511 cases are in Kootenai County.
The Inland Northwest also continues to see “community spread” of the virus, meaning some cases of COVID-19 have no identifiable link to other confirmed cases or outbreaks. Of the cases documented last week in Spokane County, only 59% could be traced to other known cases.
More young people in the county continue to test positive for the virus as well. More than 700 residents in their 20s and 30s have tested positive so far; that age group accounts for 45% of the county’s case total.
The current case counts reflect the past two weeks of activity in the region and don’t yet include Fourth of July gatherings. Health officials warned last week that COVID-19 hospitalizations were projected to double after the holiday weekend.
On Monday, 38 people were receiving treatment for COVID-19 in Spokane hospitals, and 18 of those are county residents. Four people were hospitalized with the virus in North Idaho.
COVID-19 activity has increased in Spokane County since it entered Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan on Memorial Day weekend, and case counts have increased due to more testing, contact tracing and community spread of the virus. Several local restaurants have chosen to close for a second time due to confirmed cases in employees.
On Monday, the Morning Star Boys’ Ranch, at 4511 S. Glenrose Road, announced 13 cases had been linked to its foster care program, including five employees and eight residents.
As of late June, 118 confirmed COVID-19 cases were associated with outbreaks in long-term care facilities, according to state Department of Health data.
The Spokane Regional Health District will begin offering free curbside COVID-19 testing at local elementary schools this week for those without health insurance and those who have struggled to access testing at clinics. The testing will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. The health district says those with insurance should first seek testing through their own care providers.
The curbside testing will start at Holmes Elementary from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The testing will move to other elementary schools in the coming weeks.
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