The next two weeks will be vital for determining how Spokane County will end its summer and begin the fall in the midst of a widening pandemic.
Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz and elected officials encouraged residents to continue to adhere to masking requirements, gather only in small groups of five or fewer and continue to physically distance in order for businesses to remain open and schools to possibly open in the fall.
“The next couple of weeks will be critical as we move forward,” Lutz told reporters Monday.
The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 240 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, including 91 new cases confirmed on Monday.
There have been 3,428 confirmed coronavirus cases in Spokane County, with about 47% of those residents recovered.
“We understand and share the disappointment, anxiety and fatigue you’re all experiencing after four long months of battling this virus,” Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said Monday, as she also encouraged businesses to continue to comply with the governor’s changing restrictions and urged residents to wear masks.
More than 90% of Spokane County residents are wearing face coverings in public places such as retail stores in the most recent survey conducted, which elected officials praised on Monday.
“We are extremely encouraged by the habits we’re seeing,” Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney said, noting that those practices must continue if schools are to reopen in a month.
Schools could open fully, partially (a hybrid model) or go fully online in the fall.
Lutz has been meeting with local school officials, and the state will release more guidance to school districts this week or next week, Lutz said.
Two more Spokane County residents died from the virus during the weekend, bringing the death count to 47 in the county. While the majority of deaths from COVID-19 of Spokane County residents have occurred in people older than 50, two deaths have occurred in people in their 20s and 30s.
Lutz warned that while older people can be more susceptible to the virus, young people can be hospitalized and sustain symptoms for several weeks too.
There are 58 patients receiving treatment for COVID-19 in Spokane hospitals; 38 of them are county residents.
The governor put new restrictions on some businesses in an effort to slow the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases. Some of those changes take hold Thursday.
Woodward said she had been in discussions with Lutz about rolling back some regulations locally before the governor’s announcement made those changes statewide. Lutz said the effect of rolling the county all the way backward to Phase 1 or even a shutdown are significant. He said the governor likely would not do something like that without serious consideration and conversations with elected officials.
In North Idaho, the Panhandle Board of Health passed a mask mandate last week for Kootenai County, where virus cases continue to increase.
Panhandle reported 116 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, for a total of 1,577 cases in the five-county district. Two more North Idaho residents died from the virus over the weekend, for a total of six deaths.
There are 35 North Idaho residents hospitalized with the virus.
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