Spokane County set another record number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with 81 residents testing positive for the disease.
Seventeen Spokane County residents are currently hospitalized, but more than 30 COVID-19 patients, including people from outside the county, were receiving care in Spokane hospitals as of Monday.
Spokane County now has 1,381 confirmed cases .
Forty-eight percent of patients have recovered so far, health district data show.
The new cases are part of a recent surge in cases in Spokane County and in many other parts of the state and nation. Experts say case counts are likely to continue climbing unless something changes.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned lawmakers Tuesday that daily nationwide case counts could swell to 100,000 per day if things do not turn around soon.
In Washington state, modelers predict the prevalence of the virus will continue to increase.
As state health officials seek to combat rising disease rates, they urged Washingtonians on Tuesday to limit their travel plans this summer, while Gov. Jay Inslee visited the Tri-Cities and urged residents to wear face coverings in public and comply with the statewide masking order.
The Tri-Cities remain in Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan, while Spokane is in Phase 2 and many rural counties in Eastern Washington have advanced to Phase 3. The first phase of reopening only allows for essential travel, while later phases allow for some travel.
But state health officials cautioned on Tuesday that those travel guidelines aren’t “a green light” for residents to travel as much as they want.
“We have places in Washington with a lot of COVID-19 activity. If there’s a lot of cross-state travel this summer, that could spread disease around the state,” State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said in a news release. “Public Health is requesting that if they do travel, that they stay closer to home. If people want to travel and it’s allowed based on their phase, we don’t want people traveling across the state. Stay local.”
Modelers believe that interventions, such as communitywide efforts to wear face coverings, are helping to drive down infection rates in some counties. Modelers attribute a recent decline in transmission rates in Yakima County to restrictions Inslee imposed on the county that require businesses to only admit customers wearing masks.
“Survey-based estimates of mask usage in Yakima County give us further confidence that efforts to curtail transmission are making a difference,” the most recent modeling report says. “Continued increases in mask usage and other mitigation behaviors are likely to lead to more definitive declines in transmission rates and COVID-19 burden.”
The Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, which has the largest COVID-19 outbreak in any state prison, announced initial results of widespread testing on Tuesday.
More than 1,800 medium-security inmates and 660 staff members were tested for the virus in the last five days. Four more employees tested positive, bringing the total number of staff members to test positive to 50. Sixty inmates tested positive after the complexwide testing, bringing the total number of inmates with COVID-19 to 173.
More than 1,500 inmates tested negative.
Two inmates have died due to the outbreak, and 14 people are receiving treatment at the regional care facility at the Airway Heights Corrections Center.
Despite more than 220 people testing positive for the virus at the Connell prison, public health officials praised the Department of Corrections for its mitigation and quarantine strategy.
“DOC staff and leadership have done a thoughtful and thorough job of providing testing, isolation and quarantine at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center to protect both staff and inmates within the facility,” Dr. Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist, said in a news release.
The Department of Corrections waited to do widespread testing until there were more than 100 cases reported among staff and inmates. In mid-June, they were only testing inmates who had symptoms.
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