Spokane County topped 3,000 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, as the Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 115 new cases.
The news came as no surprise to local health officials, who predicted the exponential growth of COVID-19 that has happened in the county in recent weeks.
Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz warned this week that the county has yet to hit its peak of cases and that only better adherence to mask mandates and gathering restrictions will ultimately bring down case counts . Case counts will not reflect changes in behavior for several weeks, however, which is why the number of cases and hospitalizations is expected to continue to grow, even as more people wear masks in public.
“The biggest issue I have is people not following the guidance in backyards or parks,” Lutz told reporters on Wednesday. “So it’s great to have 90% of people wearing (masks) in retail stores, but it’s what they do on their own time that’s affecting infection rates.”
There are now 3,074 confirmed cases of the virus in Spokane County, and only 44% of those residents are considered recovered by the health district.
Two more people died of the virus on Thursday, bringing the total number of deaths from the virus in Spokane County to 45.
Hospitalizations continue to increase as well. In Spokane County, hospitalizations are higher now than they were in previous months. There are 51 patients with COVID-19 receiving treatment in local hospitals, and 33 are Spokane County residents. Residents over the age of 40 make up the lion’s share of total hospitalizations in the county, though more than 20 residents under the age of 40 have been hospitalized with the virus as well.
It took about 100 days for the county to reach the 1,000-case mark from the first confirmed case on March 14 until June 23. Over the next 18 days, the county added 1,000 more cases. It took only 12 days to add the most recent 1,000. The exponential growth is in part due to community spread of the virus, meaning health officials are not connecting a large percentage of cases to known clusters, outbreaks or individuals who have the virus.
Since Spokane County entered Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan on Memorial Day weekend, case counts have grown with more movement and mobility of county residents. While the amount of testing being done in the county has increased greatly, the number of people testing positive for the virus has also increased, indicating that the virus was never dormant. Modelers are now confident that the virus was circulating in Eastern and Western Washington in June.
The state tracks the number of individuals testing positive as well as the total number of tests administered in each county on a dashboard.
The data shows that Spokane County’s percent positivity rate – the number of individuals testing positive divided by the total number of individuals tested – continues to grow. From March 28 to April 3, 6% of individuals tested had positive results. From May 30 to June 5, 8.4% of people tested had positive results. Last week, Spokane County’s positivity rate was 9.8%.
Thus far, 45% of cases in county residents are in 20s or 30s , a trend that has been seen statewide and nationally.
State health officials are concerned that what has happened in other states like Florida, where younger people drove the virus’ spread, could happen in Washington.
“One thing we’re concerned about here in Washington is about whether our current trajectory is putting us on the same path that Florida is on,” State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy told reporters Wednesday. “If we’re on that, we would start to see cases in a much broader age group, including older individuals who are much more likely to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19.”
The state crested the 50,000-case mark on Thursday, recording 766 new cases in one day. The total number of cases in Washington residents is 50,009, with 1,482 deaths.
The Spokane Regional Health District tracks COVID-19 case data using various metrics, from age to sex to ethnicity.
More women than men have tested positive for the virus in Spokane County, and about 59% of residents who have contracted the virus are under the age of 40. Currently, both Pacific Islanders and Black Spokane County residents are disproportionately impacted by the virus, although nearly a quarter of confirmed cases do not list a person’s ethnicity.
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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