Spokane County residents who are experiencing the symptoms of respiratory illness tied to the coronavirus but who aren’t in a high-risk population should take the same steps as those experiencing the flu, Spokane Regional Health District officer Dr. Bob Lutz said Sunday.
“There are certain groups that we are most concerned about,” Lutz said at a news briefing Sunday morning that aired on Facebook Live. Those who are over the age of 60, have underlying health conditions, or who work in health care and may have been exposed to the virus are being prioritized for testing at a drive-up clinic at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, which opened to the public Friday and will remain open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., as resources allow.
On Sunday, just two cars were in line to be screened at about noon, although a volunteer said there was a short line when the clinic opened at 10 a.m.
While testing supplies are in short supply, the number of cases in Spokane County continues to grow. Four new cases were announced Sunday and statewide there were 1,996 cases, up from 1,793 the day before, according to the Washington Department of Health. There was also one new death in the state, bringing the total to 95.
A nationwide shortage of testing supplies has prompted some prioritization of who will get tested for the virus. Lutz said many cases do not require hospitalization but emphasized that its effects can be felt by patients of all ages.
“What we are seeing, however, by looking at both national and international data, is that maybe with the exception of very young children, every age group is affected,” Lutz said. Health officials in Idaho said Sunday they had confirmed three new cases in patients in North Idaho who were younger than 40.
The Whitman County Health Department reported Sunday a woman in her 20s there had tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. The woman has recovered and is in isolation at home, according to a Whitman County news release, and officials are working to determine whom she had contact with.
Those who aren’t part of the high-risk population who aren’t tested should remain in their homes, rest and take over-the-counter medication to relieve symptoms, which can include prolonged fever, respiratory pain and in some new cases sore throat, Lutz said Sunday.
Officials are urging those experiencing symptoms to remain in isolation until they’ve been without a fever for three days, or if they’ve been free of symptoms for 10 days, whichever is longer, Lutz said.
The health officer also said that there’s no evidence that the virus can be transmitted by food, noting that the novel coronavirus is believed to be spread by respiratory droplets. That’s why officials are urging the public, and in some areas mandating, that people remain 6 feet from each other to prevent its spread.
Testing at the fairgrounds does not require a written referral, Lutz said. Patients can call or video chat their doctor to receive a recommendation to get tested, they do not need to meet face-to-face with their provider.
The Spokane Regional Health District and area emergency officials plan to hold a daily briefing at 10 a.m. to update the public on the response to the virus. The updates can be seen on Facebook by visiting facebook.com/SpokaneCovidResponse.
Also on Sunday, President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration for Washington, authorizing additional federal money to be spent on crisis counseling and “emergency protective measures,” according to a news release from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Gov. Jay Inslee said he appreciated the declaration in a statement issued Sunday, but said the federal government needed to do more to support Washington workers who will be unemployed as a result of the closure of businesses to stop the virus’s spread. Congressional leaders were negotiating an aid package Sunday, along with representatives of the White House.
“We will continue working with our federal partners to deliver the full suite of disaster assistance that is sorely needed in our state, such as expanded unemployment benefits for workers who lose their paychecks as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” Inslee said in his statement.
In addition, the Washington Commerce Department on Sunday encouraged small-business owners to apply for disaster assistance in the form of low-interest loans that could be used to cover payroll and fixed debts.
The U.S. Small Business Administration recently changed its disaster declaration to apply to businesses in all 39 of Washington’s counties, and loans of up to $2 million, repayable over 30 years, are available.
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