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With more than 200 cases confirmed in last three days, health officials encourage compliance with isolation requirements

UPDATED: Mon., July 13, 2020

Despite nationwide backlogs at labs processing COVID-19 tests, health officials are asking Spokane County residents to isolate themselves while they await their test results.

“I cannot implore you enough, if you have been tested, stay home, stay home, stay home,” Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said. “Presume you are positive until proven otherwise.”

People who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic can spread the virus, and this kind of spread is a part of what’s driving the region’s rising infection rates, Lutz said.

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 52 new cases on Monday, after more than 90 cases were reported on both Saturday and Sunday. A man in his 80s died from the virus during the weekend. There are 25 county residents hospitalized, and a total of 38 COVID-19 patients in local Spokane hospitals.

The entire Inland Northwest is seeing increased community spread of the virus. The Panhandle Health District in Idaho reported 97 new cases on Monday as case counts in its five-county region have soared. There are eight residents of the Panhandle Health District receiving treatment at Kootenai Health, including four younger than 60.

Lutz said he hopes Washington state orders to wear masks in public and for businesses to require customers to do so will help. The recent cases are predominantly people tested a week ago, meaning their infections are probably two or three weeks old now. Case counts, in other words, are telling the story of the virus spreading in late June.

“Behaviors do change the trajectory of COVID-19,” Lutz said, pointing to places like Yakima County, which implemented mandatory masking in businesses earlier than the statewide order and is beginning to see the prevalence of the virus decrease. “What is difficult to affect is people’s behaviors in their backyards and out at the lake and in social settings.”

So you’ve got COVID-19, now what?Health officials released clarifying guidance on Monday that dictates when it is okay to go back to work after testing positive for the virus or being exposed to it.

Isolation and quarantine are key strategies, based on time, that health officials are asking residents to use in ensuring that they are not spreading the virus. A person with COVID-19 should wait 10 days from when their symptoms began and have three consecutive days with no symptoms and no use of medication before returning to work. For a person with no symptoms or minimal symptoms who has tested positive for COVID-19, they need to wait 10 days from when they were tested before returning to work. If they develop symptoms in the meantime, they must wait 10 days from when their symptoms began before returning to work.

With contact tracing in place, close contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19 are being asked to quarantine. The best time to get tested for the virus after a known exposure is four to seven days after you have been exposed. A person exposed to COVID-19 with no symptoms needs to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether or not they test negative for the virus, in case they develop symptoms. If they develop symptoms, they follow the same isolation guidance as a person who has a confirmed case of the virus.

The health district also issued guidance for households with multiple people on Monday, which says that if a child tests positive for COVID-19, one guardian should be the designated caretaker for the child and isolate with them.

When a person is in isolation, they should not leave their house unless they need to seek medical care, and they should get their groceries delivered and other services brought to them instead of going out into the community.

Susan Sjoberg, program manager for disease prevention at the health district, said they have a care coordination unit that supports people to remain in isolation or quarantine through various resources. So far, the health district has supported 75 households with this service. When a contact investigation begins, the health worker making the call asks the person with confirmed COVID-19 if they have the supports they need to be able to isolate. If they need additional services, they can receive help and support from the care coordination team.

Time-based strategies to return to work are made more difficult by the delay in test results from laboratories experiencing long delays because of increased demand for tests as case counts surge in multiple states around the country.

At Quest Diagnostics, where the capacity is 125,000 samples per day for diagnostic testing, it can take up to a week for patients to receive results unless they are considered a “priortized patient.”

”We are limited in how quickly we can add capacity,” a statement from Quest says. “For instance, global supply constraints continue to be an issue. While our suppliers of test platforms and reagents continue to be responsive to our need to add capacity, they are limited amid surging demand in the United States and globally.”

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