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Spokane County confirms a dozen more COVID-19 cases; Washington case count grows

UPDATED: Thu., March 26, 2020

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased statewide and in Spokane County on Thursday, bringing the state case count to 3,207 and the local number to 67.

There have been 147 deaths statewide, due to the virus. No deaths have been reported in Spokane County.

At midnight Wednesday, a two-week stay-home order took effect in Washington, shuttering nonessential businesses statewide and prohibiting all gatherings.

Gov. Jay Inslee warned Thursday his order may extend beyond two weeks.

“This order may need to be extended, and the reason is we simply cannot allow this virus to be slowed and then spring back upon us,” Inslee said at a virtual news conference.

Supply shortages and testing capacity continue to beleaguer community response to the virus, which Inslee acknowledged makes flattening the rise of new cases more challenging.

“We need testing, pervasive testing, before we’ll be able to return to normalcy in our state,” he said.

So far, that pervasive testing has not materialized. This week, a Department of Health worker drove from Seattle to Spokane to pick up vials necessary for collecting samples for testing to take to Yakima, which was running low.

The need to take such actions is indicative of the state’s critical shortage of supplies, Inslee said.

Both commercial and public health labs are increasing their capacity to process testing kits, but the University of Washington cannot run federally distributed testing kits, “which doesn’t make sense,” Inslee said.

On a call with the White House, Inslee said he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence about getting this rule changed.

As of Tuesday, 1,252 Spokane County residents had been tested, but these numbers are lower than actual figures, due to backups in the statewide database.

As of Thursday, seven people with COVID-19 in Spokane County are hospitalized, said Kelli Hawkins, public information offer at the Spokane Regional Health District. These numbers fluctuate greatly day to day, due to patients staying in the hospital or getting discharged.

The Spokane Regional Health District has been reporting the number of confirmed cases and deaths, but in the next few days, the district plans to update its data reporting to include the number of confirmed cases by age, the number of those hospitalized and the total number of residents tested, including both positive and negative results.

In the past few days, Spokane’s case numbers appeared to jump.

“The dramatic increase we saw was very influenced by the fact that we have more testing,” she said.

Test results are coming back between three to seven days later, as commercial labs are continuing to try to keep up with the demand nationwide. Statewide, 46,380 Washingtonians have been tested.

Numerous state agencies are working against a nationwide and global shortage of personal protective equipment from gowns to masks to gloves, and for now, there aren’t enough supplies to satisfy the needs in the state, agency officials said Thursday.

The Department of Health distributed personal protective equipment and supplies to the 10 counties statewide that have the highest number of COVID-19 cases, including Spokane County, although these shipments were only partial orders.

“Unfortunately, we cannot fill the entire order, which is the reality we are facing right now,” said Jerrod Davis, assistant secretary for disease control at the Department of Health.

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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